Spring break is officially in session at many schools in the United States. But this year, thousands of students will hit Florida's beach with something else on their mind other than soaking in the sun.
More than 2,500 Christian students from across America are expected to attend one of five week-long outreach events hosted by Campus Crusade for Christ as part of their annual "Big Break" conferences.
Between Feb. 28 and April 3, participating college students will join forces on Panama City Beach to not only help prepare and pack meals for 1 million Haitian earthquake victims, but also to share their faith and recruit other students on the beach to help.
"I'm hearing from students around the country who are excited about this opportunity to help ease the suffering in Haiti in a tangible way," said Mark Gauthier, national director of the U.S. campus ministry for Campus Crusade for Christ. "I'm thankful for both the students and for the thousands of partners whose generous gifts will help pay for the meals and the shipping costs."
For the Haiti relief effort, CCC has partnered with Kids Against Hunger and Global Aid Network (GAiN), the relief development arm of CCC. Kids Against Hunger is responsible for packing more than 120 million meals that have been distributed in 60 countries over the past decade. And GAiN brings to the effort its experience distributing more than 1 million pre-positioned meals to survivors of Haiti's earthquake.
Each afternoon during "Big Break," CCC-affiliated students will invite young adults on the beach to join them for a packing party. Students are responsible for combining ingredients to make a highly nutritious, vitamin-fortified soy-rice mix. The meal-mix when added with six cups of water swells 14 times its size to form porridge.
It has been more than a month since the 7.0-magnitude quake struck near Port-au-Prince, but millions of Haitians are still sleeping on streets and on fields. They have only a plastic sheet to defend themselves against the rainy season and are dependent on relief groups for food.
Many Christian relief agencies have rushed help to Haiti in the aftermath, including World Vision and members of Action by Churches Together.
On Monday, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief reported that it has distributed 24 tons of rice, or 204,000 servings, dispensed 17,000 medicines, and seen 8,584 patients as of Feb. 25.
Meanwhile, Operation Blessing International reported that it has opened a makeshift school near the soccer field called Camp Dadadu where 7,000 quake victims live in tents. The school currently has eight teachers and seven volunteers. About 500 children grades 1 to 6 attend classes from 9 a.m. until noon.
"While conditions are still poor, they are getting better for the people living in Camp Dadadu," said Bill Horan, president of OBI. "They now have safe water, nutritious food and even a makeshift school that their children are enjoying. There is much hope for the future."
Several other Christian child-focused ministries are setting up schools to help Haitian children have a sense of normalcy again.