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.

For our trip we traveled to Martinsville, Virginia to help out in the community. Specifically, we went to canvass about Medicaid Expansion and to help organize a community meeting for other issues. Martinsville is a community that once had a big textile and furniture industry, until many of the factories moved. Now Martinsville has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. Since jobs are hard to come by, health care is also a major issue for them. So, we went canvassing in the neighborhoods of Martinsville and neighboring Henry County to ask people what they thought was the biggest issue in their community and to give them information about Medicaid Expansion. We knocked on about 1,500 doors and talked to numerous people. The majority of the people were very friendly and willing to talk to us. One lady saw that it was cold outside and that I did not have a scarf and she gave me one of hers. It was little acts of kindness like hers that made the trip very rewarding.

Toward the end of the week we had a community meeting in which many of the people we talked to attended. It was wonderful attending the meeting and seeing people that I spoke to come out. After a long week canvassing, it was good to see our efforts actually worked. It was also good to see the people in the community discussing the issues in their community and possible solutions to their problems. This trip was different from many other volunteer trips I have been on. I have been on trips where we go in and build something or provide some service and just leave afterwards. With Virginia Organizing we actually built something that was long lasting. We helped organize people in the community so that they can continue making a change long after we have gone.