Monday, November 30 , 2015, 3:27 pm | Fair 64º

Westmont Students Spend Spring Break Serving Others

Westmont College students work together on construction projects in Ensenada during spring break.
Westmont College students work together on construction projects in Ensenada during spring break.  (Westmont College photo)

By Scott Craig for Westmont College |

About 225 Westmont College students and local volunteers have traveled to Mexico as part of Potter’s Clay helping the under-served in Ensenada during spring break, March 7-14.

A student-organized service trip that started in 1977, Potter’s Clay is one of Westmont’s longest-running traditions. About 30 students will also serve with Urban Initiative in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Francisco for Spring Break in the City.

In Ensenada, a new team specializing in photography will set up a mobile photo booth to provide free, quality portraits to families and individuals.

“The portraits will be taken, printed after brief editing, and handed to the family or individual,” said Jonny Wahl, Potter’s Clay Core Team co-director. “The idea comes from nonprofit Help-Portrait that does similar work in the U.S.”

Matt Bennett, a senior physics major, heads the team and is excited to convey love and worth by giving people photos of themselves.

In addition, Potter’s Clay will be constructing a dental clinic, four homes, two church additions and five building remodels.

Five medical and dental clinics, including a new location at Ojos Negros in the mountains west of Ensenada, will provide much-needed medical and dental care to the Zapotecos, an indigenous tribe. On Thursday, March 13, the mayor of Ensenada will visit the clinic in his city.

Last year, Potter’s Clay created a new mobile salon team that served abused and exploited women. This year the team returns to Ensenada, providing haircutting and beauty salon services to all men, women and families.

Potters Clay
The Potter's Clay Core Team. (Westmont College photo)

“We want to join the work that God is doing in the city of Ensenada by side-by-side service with members of the local faith community,” said Rose Ellen Bohnsack, Potter’s Clay co-director. “We intend to provide a growing experience for Westmont students by instilling competence and confidence in team leaders, as well as challenging participants to step outside their comfort zone and connect their experience on Potter’s Clay to living a life on mission. We strive to keep Christ at the center of all we do by remaining constant in prayer and recognizing that His grace and strength enable us to participate in His work.”

Spring Break in Santa Barbara will partner with the Uffizi Missional Order, strengthening relationships with youth on the Westside. Volunteers will also serve at Adelante Charter School, a bilingual elementary school on the Eastside.

“Our goal is to foster relationships that can be continued after the week ends and to help Westmont students connect in a different way with the city they live in,” said Emily Petty, co-director of Urban Initiative.

Students with Spring Break in Los Angeles learn and engage with complex issues in the city such as poverty, gang violence and human trafficking. By day they will serve meals at the Union Rescue Mission; at night will sleep on the roof of the mission in Skid Row.

“We hope to provide an opportunity for students to discover new ways to engage in the inner-city from a perspective of faith and then apply those tools to their own community,” Petty says.

Spring Break in San Francisco will learn, experience and serve in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. The students will confront issues such as mental illness, addiction and at-risk youth. Volunteers will serve at the San Francisco Missions Outpost, where Westmont students have forged relationships for about a decade. For the first time, the group will learn about human trafficking within urban America and will work with Freedom House SF. They will also serve with Project Open Hand, Alpha Pregnancy and City Team.

— Scott Craig is the media relations manager for Westmont College.

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