WHO: Lorna Nazon, 24, and Porchea Tipton, 21, both of Dorchester
WHERE: Washington, D.C.
WHEN: One week in March
WHY: To participate in the first ``alternative spring break" program at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.
SEEING THE UNDERSERVED: Nazon, Tipton, and 11 other students went to Washington to do volunteer work to help the homeless. Most of them, including Nazon and Tipton, are involved with Jumpstart Boston, a service program that pairs low-income preschool children with college students.
FROM THE GET-GO: They flew in on a Saturday and went to work, helping out at the Capital Area Food Bank. They stayed downtown at a hostel affiliated with a Lutheran church. ``There were other groups there, too," Nazon said. ``It was one big room with 50 beds. "
SUNDAY SERVICES: After church, they joined a march for low-income housing, Tipton said. ``There were about 500 people, from different local churches. We marched five blocks, and they talked about affordable housing and how some people don't want it in their communities. . . . At the end of the day, we talked about what we could do in our own community."
FACE TO FACE: As part of the program Faces of Homelessness, they heard from a panel of three current and former homeless people, then did outreach. ``Everybody was wide-eyed that day," Tipton said. ``We had to go out and talk to homeless people. One lady told us that more than anything she doesn't want money, but conversation. People had different reasons for being homeless. I think everyone's opinions changed after talking to them."
FALLING THROUGH : After a day of home construction work with Habitat for Humanity, the students participated in ``The Cracks," a role-play ing exercise to show how people can end up homeless. ``I really got into my identity," Tipton said. ``I was a woman living with my brother, with three kids, and my husband had gotten shot. Everything was so hard. "
WORK AND PLAY: After a day of cleaning up the city's parks, the students had one free day. They happened upon the famed Ben's Chili Bowl, in the heart of a once-thriving African-American community. ``We found out Bill Cosby has been there, Bill Clinton, Denzel Washington," Tipton said. `` . . . That night we went all over the place, to the different monuments."
POLITICS AS USUAL: A meeting with one of US Senator John F. Kerry's assistants to talk about student financial aid and homelessness proved somewhat frustrating. ``It wasn't what I thought it was going to be," Tipton said. ``I don't think we accomplished much. "
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