Branch Out Alternative Breaks

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

April 16, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Mountains, Coal and Appalachian Music

by Natalie Hurd

I spent Spring Break in Appalachia, Virginia learning about mountain top removal. Before arriving I had watched documentaries, seen presentations and read articles about the destructive effect surface mining has on the environment around it. Once I was there, I learned very quickly that knowing something and understanding it on a human level are very different.

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April 16, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Rural Health Care in Kilmarnock, VA

by Maia Tinder

Our week in Kilmarnock, VA at the Northern Neck Free Health Clinic began late on Sunday afternoon, when we met our community partner and her sweet dog in the parking lot outside of the clinic. As one of the site leaders of the trip, my co-leader and I had been told for months how warm and talkative our community partner would be and we saw this right away. After standing in the parking lot for about 10 minutes sharing stories about her dog and introducing each other, we headed inside for a tour of the clinic and the spaces we would be using to cook dinner, keep our things, and a brief tour of the other areas we would be working. We then went with our community partner to the place where we would be sleeping, which was actually the original site of the clinic at its establishment. We had planned that evening to drive over to a place on the Chesapeake Bay, which our community partner told us was beautiful, but after we had come into the clinic and put our things down, we looked outside the window and saw that the snow forecasted for the week was already beginning to come down in a wet sleet. We were warned by our community partner that the clinic may be closed the next day if there was too much snow, but that we would have to figure it out when the time came. We decided to go later in the week, said goodbye to our community partner, and settled down to have a team meeting to discuss logistics for the week.

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April 16, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Justice Beyond the Mountains

by Madeleine Boel

Mountaintop removal was not something I was aware of until I joined William & Mary’s Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC). Members of SEAC has been to Mountain Justice Spring Break, and told us about the devastations of mountaintop removal. This form of resource extraction blows the tops off of mountains to get to coal seams. It’s cheaper and less labor intensive than traditional mining, but way more destructive to the environment. When Branch Out and SEAC announced that there would be a Mountain Justice trip to Appalachia, Virginia, I knew I had to go and see this for myself.

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April 16, 2014
by Melody Porter
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And to Think, I Almost Didn’t Go…

by Marilyn Ampadu 

Our Branch Out trip to Philadelphia, PA may be the event that sets the course for the rest of my life, but before you can understand that, we have to go to the beginning. Even before I had ever heard of or worked with Branch Out, I had an instinctual passion for social justice and equality. I had already decided to pursue a life of active service and deal with incorporating my occupation later. The trip to Philadelphia was focused on labor rights and living wages, two causes I strongly advocate. Even with this, the thought of losing time from family, friends, and home to go to a place I’d never been and partner with strangers took time to settle in me. In the end, I left for Philadelphia that morning feeling slightly apprehensive of the week ahead of me.

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April 16, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Lasting Change in a Community

by Dominique Langhorne

My original plan for this past spring break was to stay in bed all day watching Netflix. I changed this plan after one of my site leaders came to my Human Geography class to recruit people for the Virginia Organizing Branch Out trip. Although I had never heard about Virginia Organizing until that moment, I decided that I wanted to get involved with this trip because it seemed to be a great way to help people and it applied to my major in Government. I am not normally a person who goes out and makes friends or gets involved in school activities. On this trip I met many great people and I got involved with a great organization.

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April 15, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Hungry for Justice

by Maab Yasin

The amount of blessings that came out of this trip are too many to count and they have been stitched together to form a permanent smile across my heart. The DC Central Kitchens crew probably has the highest concentration of humble, genuine, supportive, down-to-earth, honest and all around beautiful people in one organization I have ever had the pleasure of encountering. My branch out team was composed of a refreshingly dynamic group of passionate, caring and energetic people who made the trip even more meaningful than I thought it would be.

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April 15, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Tribe Hammers Homelessness!

by Edith Amponsah

This past spring break was the best I’ve experienced yet, and it was because of the Branch Out National trip which I took part in. We visited Mount Pleasant, S.C. to work with Habitat for Humanity partners building a house. Before this trip, I had a small experience working with Habitat for Humanity but none of that prepared me for the experience I was about to have in Mount Pleasant. I had always known that homelessness was a problem in the U.S., but my knowledge I found out soon, was immature. The pre-trip meetings which the trip leaders held prepared us for the trip through a series of educational modules. Neither I nor my friends truly understood the difficulty and responsibilities of living under the poverty line and not having a place to live. By making us aware of this social issue, our trip leaders taught us to be appreciative of all of life’s circumstances, a lesson which shaped not only shaped our thinking but our attitudes as we embarked on this trip.

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April 15, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Proactive Steps Toward Progress

by Ellie Jamerson

This past spring break I went to Philadelphia, PA to work with POWER and Arch Street on labor rights and living wages. Before departing for the trip, I expected certain activities to be challenging, but I did not have too many expectations. I wanted to keep an open mind so that I could really absorb my surroundings. All in all, I took away more from this trip than I could ever have anticipated.

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April 15, 2014
by Melody Porter
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My Alternative Break at the Northern Neck Free Health Clinic

by Inanje Mintz

This Spring Break, I was fortunate enough to volunteer at the Northern Neck Free Health Clinic (NNFHC) in Kilmarnock, VA.  Working at the clinic was an incredible experience.  Our Branch Out group tackled the issue of providing healthcare in rural populations. Our social issue focused on filling the health care gap and providing efficient care to those who are low-income and uninsured.   The patients who visit the clinic are below the poverty level. The clinic is able to provide free doctor visits, free prescriptions and other medications, as well as dental care and surgery for a lifetime fee of $25.

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April 15, 2014
by Melody Porter
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The Promise: Hope, Housing, and Beyond

by Wei Chang

As we stepped into the Laredo airport, it was an unexpected scene of cultural influence from the local and perhaps from the country that borders the town. As the chapter director of Habitat for Humanity at Laredo explained to us, “We are a little bit of Texas, a little bit of Mexico, but mostly a whole lot of Laredo.” In the few days that we were there, it was incredibly interesting for us to see the elements of U.S. and Mexican culture blend in the area. Laredo is home to the largest inland port on the U.S.-Mexico border. However, it is also one of the poorest area of the United States with 29.8 % of people living below the poverty level between 2008 and 2012 (U.S. Census). With the low income level, many people cannot afford housing. Habitat for Humanity in the area serves its mission by building affordable housing in Laredo for families that would have otherwise been in difficult living conditions. Among the construction site leaders and people from Habitat for Humanity, many stories were told describing the powerful moment of the house ceremony. For families that had to all share one room before to have their own house, it was a transformation. It was also a reminder of hope and a chance for the children in the family to receive education opportunities and perhaps be the first in the family to attend college. Stories of family from the past and the possibilities for the children in the future demonstrate to the volunteers and the community that change is possible. In that sense, the neighborhood cannot find a more suitable name than “Tierra Prometida” or Promised Land.

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