Branch Out Alternative Breaks

Creating a community of active & educated individuals dedicated to the pursuit of social justice

March 2, 2015
by kjainsworth
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#Outreach360 – Release the Hero Within

by Allison Shomaker

My week working with Outreach360 in Jinotega, Nicaragua was one of the best. We flew into the capital, Managua, and took a two hour long bus ride through the mountains to Jinotega. The NGO we were working with was amazing. Outreach360 had everything planned perfectly. We spent the first day adjusting and then we jumped straight into teaching. Our group worked with around 48 children in the Learning Center. We did review of basic vocabulary and taught some new grammar lessons. During recess, we sang songs and played games in the walled-in back yard. For four days, we worked with the children and learned about the program.

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February 13, 2015
by kjainsworth
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Reflections on Water in El Portillo, Nicaragua

by Rachel Brown

As the sun started its graceful descent into the Nicaraguan sky, the people of El Portillo, the community in which my service team and I were living that week, began to gather on the main road for a protest. They started very small fires on the road to prevent a government official from passing. My team and I watched from outside the school where we were living as more flames began to appear. Yet, the entire protest remained peaceful – no one was hurt, no shots were fired, and nothing became remotely violent.

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February 11, 2015
by kjainsworth
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The Spirit of Service in Haiti

by Connor Kennedy

This winter I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a portion of my break on a Branch Out International Trip to Cap Haitien, Haiti. It is an experience I will never forget. I have known that I hope to one day work in international development for quite some time now. However, that is easier said than done. I viewed this opportunity as a step in the right direction, as I had never before been to a developing country. My experience with Branch Out was wonderful in preparing our team on the culture, lifestyle, and history of a country I previously knew little about. Of course I remembered the earthquake that left Haiti so devastated only a few years ago, but apart from other limited knowledge, I really did not know much about the country I had committed to traveling to and working in for a week’s time. Even our preparation, weekly meetings, and the knowledge I had previously had about developing countries could not prepare me for when we finally arrived in Haiti. Cap Haitien was vibrant, colorful, full of life and people walking around everywhere and riding five to a motorcycle. The city and its landscape were beautiful with miles and miles of blue coastline. What I was less prepared for was just how different the country was…the roads largely unpaved except for very busy streets, with no central electricity and mostly no plumbing, was a far cry from anywhere I had ever been before. What struck me the most were the countless stray dogs, goats, cows, chickens, etc. that seemed to roam anywhere and everywhere at all hours of the day.

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April 30, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Laredo to Williamsburg, The Habitat Project

by Amanda Wells

After an educational, and eye-opening trip to Laredo, Texas, our service group returned to Williamsburg, Virginia. In Laredo we did our best to assist with a house build in a Mexican and Mexican-American community. Back in Williamsburg, we continued to work with Habitat for Humanity through the Williamsburg ReStore. ReStore allows families from all financial backgrounds to furnish and personalize their homes. Our team helped with the ReStore’s Annual Fundraiser by selling food and washing cars. Team members advertised on the street, while the rest of us interacted directly with the public. We washed cars for individuals from every socioeconomic background, and every customer donated something for the Habitat cause. The event organizers did everything in their power to support our work today, providing all our cleaning supplies and a hearty lunch for the entire group.

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April 30, 2014
by Melody Porter
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My Spring Break in Kilmarnock, Virginia

by Kanako Matsuda

My spring break started on a warm Sunday morning, as my team and I gathered in front of Sadler Center to be picked up. After packing our luggage expertly into the crowded van, we were off on the road for the next hour. When we arrived at Kilmarnock, Virginia, I was eager to finally see the Northern Neck Free Health Clinic for the first time. It is a wonderful place, bright and welcoming, as was our community partner. She gave us a short tour around the clinic, showing us the kitchen where we could make our meals and the upper lounge where we could wind down (and work!). After this tour, much story-telling, and dinner, we hopped back into the van and headed to our next destination: a comfy trailer which we called our home for the week. And so day one ended.

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April 30, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Greenhouse Powerhouse

by Tattiana Bamba

Before going on my Branch Out trip I was a little apprehensive: I didn’t know anything about sustainable farming!  After two days of hard labor in freezing temperatures I was less than impressed to say the least.  But then there was a break in the storm, literally, and I started to realize how important the work that we were doing was.  During this trip I learned a lot.  One of the interesting things that I learned while preparing for our presentation on the trip was the difference between organic food and sustainable food.  I learned the importance of being conscious of where your food comes from and how costly food miles can be.  After watching a TEDx talk on urban sustainable farming, I became motivated to make a more conscious decision to get involved when I move back to New York.  Sustainable farming is becoming more of a big deal because people are running out of options (either food is cheap but really bad for you or its really expensive, mass produced organic food with a million food miles on it). The root cause of the sustainable food issue is that it’s too easy for people to just run to the grocery store without thinking, but soon that won’t be an option for them and it certainly won’t be as easy for our kids and grand kids.

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April 30, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Be a Humanizing Force

by Charlotte Mabon

One of my favorite TED talks is given by feminist author Courtney Martin.  When I’m a little low or feeling stretched too thin, I will watch the short talk for a quick pick-me-up.  I remember the first time I watched this talk.  I remember sitting on my bed in the Units (yes I lived in the Units as a sophomore and it really wasn’t that bad) and just happened to be scrolling through TED Talk’s webpage.

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