In 2005, Linell Stabler was a non-traditional International Relations student at Bucknell University and in January of that year she made her first observation trip to Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. Upon her return, Linell and several other IR students registered the first Bucknell ACES group as a student campus organization. The group held several fundraisers to help supply Dominican school children with basic tools and to provide medical supplies for outreach clinics. The first Bucknell ACES spring break service trip was launched in 2007 with 17 travelers.
Each year since that first trip, Bucknell ACES (now BACES) has worked toward funding the spring break trip. On each of the trips, the students help with a variety of projects. This always includes an ACES day-long medical outreach where they assist doctors, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists who consult and treat 500 – 700 community residents. The students pack and distribute bulk food to communities in the Santo Domingo area. They often organize paint and construction teams to work at the ACES elementary/secondary school, and frequently they visit and tour a rural community near Santiago. One day is always reserved for a recreational beach/tourist day, followed by a dinner at a local restaurant. Most of all, the BACES students learn about the Dominican culture first-hand as they socialize and befriend the Dominicans they meet.
With this multi-cultural experience in mind, the BACES leadership begins each fall semester with campus-wide interest meetings, showing slide shows of previous trips and answering questions for students who might be considering this form of service. Trip applications are accepted, travelers selected, and fundraising events are planned. An important component of the planning is orientation for the trip – Dominican history, culture, economy, language, food, money, travel, and living conditions. Equally important in these orientation meetings is the opportunity for the travelers to bond and create friendships with each other – some of them lasting well beyond the Bucknell experience.