True Blue

Fraternity brothers vacation with a purpose

After teaching English and playing a short game of futbol, the Zeta Delta Delta brothers take a group pic with the youth around Cartagena.

When most college friends reunite for the summer, the last thing on their minds is work. But alumnus Courtney Brown (‘08) and his fraternity brothers of the Georgia Southern Zeta Delta Delta (“Zoo”) Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., make sure their reunions make a difference.

In the summer of 2015, Brown and several of his fraternity brothers decided to reconnect. They threw around vacation ideas and locations, finally landing on the Dominican Republic. Although the men were looking for some rays of sunshine and catching up along the shoreline, they knew their time together could benefit more than just their friendships. They decided to find a way to volunteer what Brown says is their most valuable asset, their time.

“We came from all over,” said Brown. “I came from San Antonio, Texas, some came from Atlanta, others from Florida. We leave our jobs and our lives back home for a few days, and come together for this trip.”

Since then, every summer Brown and other alumni take a volunteer vacation, a “Zoocation,” as they call it. This summer their volunteers reached the highest numbers to date, bringing 17 alumni and undergraduate students, entirely on their own dime, to Cartagena in Columbia.

When they arrived, the men split into two groups, one group heading offshore to the island of Tierra Bomba for trash pickup with the local Boy Scouts, the other working on the mainland to teach English to young students at the Alex Rocha Youth Center. The island has unpaved roads, no running water and no waste management system. For four days, Brown and his friends worked to make an impact on the community, and were humbled by the impact the community had on them.

After picking up trash with the Boys and Girls Scouts of Cartagena, the chapter stopped to snap a quick picture.

“It’s so rewarding to know that you’re making a difference in someone’s life,” said Brown. “Often times we find ourselves complaining about things that are minute to the people of Tierra Bomba and some of Colombia. The funny thing about it all, they still had joy.”

Brown and his fraternity brothers plan to make these trips every summer and even plan to eventually return to some of the communities they’ve already visited in an effort to continue their work. Brown hopes to see their numbers grow each year and is thankful to Georgia Southern for bringing his brothers together in the first place.

“Everyone that came on this trip was from Georgia Southern,” he said. “We range in ages and backgrounds, but we were all shaped by Georgia Southern.”

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/Research University founded in 1906, offers 118 degree programs serving 20,418 students. Through eight colleges, the University offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs built on more than a century of academic achievement. Georgia Southern is recognized for its student-centered and hands-on approach to education. Visit

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