Branch Out Alternative Breaks

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

Category: alternative breaks (page 3 of 17)

Finding Focus with Outreach 360

by Rachel Warner

It is hard to put into words the experience I had in Nicaragua with Outreach 360 because it was such a positive one.  Not only did I make a difference in the lives of people in the community, but they continue to have an impact on me.  Outreach 360 is an extra-curricular learning center in Jinotega, Nicaragua that teaches Spanish literacy and English language acquisition.  Attending school in Nicaragua is only for half of a day and so for the other half, kids at the center opt into this program.  When we worked there, it was their winter break but they continued to come with enthusiasm because they truly love learning.

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Allison Prell and Cate Johnson share about their experience on their second Branch Out International alternative break to El Portillo, Nicaragua with Bridges to Community.

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Building a Stronger Community

by Ellery Lea

In March, I spent a week in South Carolina working on a Habitat for Humanity site over spring break. I traveled with eleven other William & Mary students to the Charleston area where we helped refurbish a home and worked in the ReStore. Some of the work we did on site included cleaning the home’s exterior, priming, painting, removing shingles on the roof, and landscaping. Doing manual labor was really rewarding because I could get immediate results and see the progress I was making. For example, when I was painting a side of the house, it was satisfying to see the unpainted area slowly shrink away with each stroke of the brush.

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Relating Service to Studies in Haiti

by Ayala Maurice

This year’s Branch out trip to Cap Haitien was truly amazing. It’s so difficult to describe in words how much the experience impacted my view of the world and the role that the government and organizations play in it. We were greeted warmly by the teachers and students and taken in as a friend immediately. I did not expect to feel so comfortable with the teachers and despite not speaking Haitian Creole, I found we were able to communicate in so many other ways. The NGO that we worked with, Sonje Ayiti, is led by some phenomenal people. It really made me appreciate the work of grassroots organizations in developing and easing economic pressure within communities. The teachers who were employed by Sonje Ayiti had pride and passion for what they did each day and only wanted to do more for their students in advancing their learning. The sense of community that I felt surrounding the NGO and the school really solidified, for me, just how vital these organizations are for improving everyday life.

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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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Cross-Cultural Conversations in Haiti

by Cristyn Filla

Hello, my name is Cristyn Filla. I am a junior at the College of William and Mary and a member of the WM Haiti Compact team. I am an anthropology major and plan on joining the Peace Corps after graduation.

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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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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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Don’t Let Financial Concerns Stop You

While discussing my work with some friends over dinner last night, one of them asked the first question that often comes to mind when we talk about alternative breaks: “How do students pay for these trips? They must be expensive, right?”

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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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