By Lauren Dybel, ’17
This January, I participated in a five-day Branch Out trip to Charlotte, NC, where 7 new friends and I became immersed in LGBTQ culture, legislation, and activism. While many envision service-learning trips as hands-on, being a face in the community, with this trip we were able to express a different style of service work. Our time was spent with Campus Pride, a national organization dedicated to providing resources related to LGBTQ affairs to colleges and universities.
By Sabrina Elzbir
Myrtle Beach, Cabo, Cancun, Costa Rica: these were the places I saw in pictures of friends on their spring break trips. It was the first spring break where I had decided not to go home, and as enticing as it seemed to plan a fabulous spring vacation soaking up the sun, I decided to do something different with the time off and go on an alternative spring break trip with Branch Out. There were a couple of things I knew for certain before I decided to spend my spring break in Baltimore, Maryland: I was going to learn about something I knew nothing about and meet other people I (most likely) would have never met before. But what happened during this one week was much more.
by Teri Liu
This spring break I participated in the Branch Out trip to DC. The theme of our trip is urban education. We explored different aspects of urban education in DC. During the trip, we visited different organizations, schools and talked to alumni working in the educational field. This experience helped us to connect a web of different perspectives and opinions about the challenges that urban education is facing.
by Priya Brito
Regardless of the amount of training and pre-orientation meetings someone is required to attend, it is difficult to truly imagine what they can expect from a service trip like Branch Out. Over the course of a single week partnering with Senior Connections in Richmond, VA, our BON family both learned about the growing social gaps between different generations as well as forged genuine relationships with those we had the pleasure of meeting.
by Azucena Portillo
I had the amazing opportunity to participate on an alternative spring break trip with Branch Out. We spent a week primarily working with the Fan Free Clinic in Richmond. This was my first time ever participating in an alternative spring break, so I was not sure exactly what to expect. Originally I thought that we were going to be performing some sort of service throughout the week. But after attending all the meetings with my group before the trip, I found out that we were going to be working with more than one organization, and learning what services they provided for the community.
by Madison Miller
While on my trip to Managua, Nicaragua, I was introduced to an entirely new healthcare approach. Nicaragua is a proudly socialist government with a 100 percent socialized healthcare system. To be honest, in my American mind, I thought that socialized healthcare would serve to help all of the population—I’ve heard for years how more socialized medicine is the key to eliminating the health gap in America. I was very surprised to see that the gap was just as large—if not larger—in Nicaragua as in America. Pharmacies were on every single block, if not two to a block. We rode buy multiple health clinics and even hospitals. One hospital was tremendous—an American hospital in the heart of Nicaragua. As we drove past these facilities, I couldn’t help but wonder why our clinical services were still so clearly needed even though their access was covered. When I signed up for this trip, I assumed we would be working in villages that were hours from Managua with very little development and very few resources, and that’s why they needed our services. It was the first time I realized that the health gap between the rich and the poor isn’t simply an American epidemic—it is absolutely worldwide. It is a problem that affects nearly everyone, and therefore I believe that it is everyone’s duty to get involved.
by Lauren Dickerson
My name is Lauren Dickerson, and I am a sophomore at William and Mary who went on the Lynchburg Grows spring break Branch Out trip. I hadn’t really heard of Branch Out in any context that was related to me at all until my sophomore year when a few of my friends mentioned that they were involved in it. I didn’t really know what it was, so I started asking questions. I really liked the answers I got.
by Meghan Frere
This winter break I had the opportunity to visit Nyumbani Village in Kitui, Kenya on a Branch Out International trip. Our group, the Kenya Sustainable Village Project (KSVP), volunteered for two weeks at Nyumbani, and focused in part on the issue of higher education access for the youth in the village. Nyumbani, which translates to “home” in Swahili, is a village that provides a home for orphaned children in the surrounding area, including those affected by HIV/AIDs. These children live in groups with older community members, or “grandmothers” (Susus in the local language, Kikamba) and attend elementary and secondary school in the village. While some attend university or trade school upon completion of secondary school, funding remains a large obstacle for many students in the village. Access to information and application materials are also major difficulties in attaining higher education. Access to higher education would provide secondary school graduates with the opportunity to contribute to continued development in the village and other parts of the country.
by Amirio Freeman
As an undergraduate student at one of the most rigorous and challenging academic institutions in the country, I have become increasingly appreciative of the breaks that are scheduled throughout the year, especially Spring Break. With a dearth of exams to prepare for, papers to write, and club meetings to attend, Spring Break is one of the few moments that provides me with an opportunity to disengage, destress, and practice necessary acts of leisure and self-care.
by Elena Gaffney
This past winter break, I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit and work in Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida.