Branch Out Alternative Breaks

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

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.

Lynchburg Grows makes it a point to hire people with disabilities, and one of the most enriching experiences that I had on the trip came out of our work with them.  People with disabilities a lot of times are not given the opportunities they deserve, which at times can make their conditions worse.  Lynchburg grows benefits by having extra hands but what they give back is by far more valuable; they’ve created a community and a safe place for those with disabilities.  They aren’t treated any different, as should be the norm, giving a hand up instead of a hand out.

Working with Lynchburg Grows was not only socially enriching but academically as well.  It really helped me get some hands on experience with nonprofits.  In my social entrepreneurship class we study how nonprofits are starting to develop for-profit business models.  In speaking to one of the head members of Lynchburg Grows, Lewis, he described how the organization is begging to develop similar model.  For instance, by using rose sales (the for-profit arm) to fund the non-profit arm of the operation.  He stressed the importance of having a “business mentality” when dealing with non-profits and being able to strike a balance so that the ultimate mission is not lost.

All in all it was a great trip and I would recommend EVERYONE to get to know how Lynchburg Grows!

 

Author: Melody Porter

Hello blogosphere! While I am a relative newcomer to you, I am a long-time fan of human connection. I used to say that my major in college (above my actual political science & religion double major) was in friendships. Conversations over long meals or late nights on dorm hallway floors have been transformative in my life, and it only makes sense to me to dip my toe into new ways of opening up conversation here. Some details about my life and role at W&M: I have worked at William and Mary since August 2008, and am Associate Director in the Office of Community Engagement. I spend my time fostering student leadership in the broad areas of alternative breaks and local anti-poverty initiatives. Doing so lets me fulfill what I understand my calling to be about: working for social justice in the world, and equipping others to do so with skill, sensitivity and great love. And my pre-W&M life... I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Religion from Emory University in 1995. After graduating, I decided to get further into the world of community development and service. I served as a long-term volunteer for three years, beginning a job development program in Philadelphia and working with preschool children in Johannesburg, South Africa. I came back to Emory to earn a Master of Divinity from the Candler School of Theology in 2001, with a focus in religious education. I spent a frenetic and exciting year working four jobs - from TA'ing a preaching class with Tom Long, to catering barbecue, to managing a nonprofit family literacy program with immigrant and refugee families. I went on from there to be Associate Minister at First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, working in areas of social justice and community development, and directing an after school program that served more than 100 high school students. Finally, it was one more stop at Emory - where I served for three years as director of Volunteer Emory, a student-led department for community service. Through all of my professional and volunteer experiences, and life in general, I have seen how connected and interdependent people and communities are everywhere I believe in the power of mutual service to transform lives and create social change. I also love cheese fries.

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