Branch Out Alternative Breaks

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

April 15, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Habitat for Humanity in Laredo, TX

by Brittany Hoyle

I spent my spring break in Laredo TX, building a home with the Habitat for Humanity. At the beginning of the year I had signed up for an international volunteer break, looking for some adventure and opportunity to learn about new cultures. But international plans did not work out and our group chose to volunteer Texas along the US-Mexico border. On the trip I realized I did not need to leave the country to experience the adventure I desired, the change in culture, and opportunity to help those who really needed it. Laredo ranks among America’s poorest cities and so I felt that the work we did there really made an impact. The homes we were building were providing a safe and reliable community for those who needed it.

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March 31, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Altruism, commitment, passion and selflessness

by Nelson Wu

We left for Fan Free clinic on a sunny Sunday in the early afternoon. To everyone’s dismay, a winter storm arrived early Monday morning, forcing the cancellation of Fan Free Clinic for two days. Everyone felt really disappointed and in particular I was especially unhappy that we would not have been able to go the The Healing Place to learn about HIV and drug recreational use. To be productive, we watched videos and powerpoints sent by Susan, our Fan Free coordinator, about transgender issues. Because of the history of HIV/AIDS, much of the stigma around this disease was centered around the LGBTQ population as well as drug users. Many of us as college educated and self-aware individuals are aware of gay and lesbian people and the issues and struggles that gay people face. However, many of us were very much ignorant to the “T” acronym of LGBTQ. Although I knew much about transgender people prior to the video, I did learn that transgender people have a gender neutral pronoun called “ze.” Ze is a pronoun that is sex neutral and is a way to refer to a transgender person if you are not sure which female or male pronoun to call them. I had also learned that it is completely acceptable to just asking a transgender person which pronoun they would like to be called if you are not sure. As a pre-med, I took particular note of this as one day I may encounter a transgender patient and would need to be cognizant and sensitive to pronoun labels.

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March 31, 2014
by Melody Porter
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From Here to There: Branch Out National with Lynchburg Grows

by Denise Lee

Working at Lynchburg Grows,  a non-profit greenhouse, was an extraordinary experience. Cutting the rose bushes in the blizzard, freezing temperature was not the best experience but it gave me a sense of how important my contributions were making to the community. Throughout the trip, I learned more about our social issue, food sustainability.

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March 31, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Sustainable service and sustainable partnerships

by Thomas Fergus

The Kenya Sustainable Village Project Branch Out International team is a group dedicated to working with the Nyumbani Village in Kitui, Kenya. Nyumbani is the first village of it’s kind established to help bridge the generation gap between elders who lost their children to HIV/AIDs, and young children who lost their parents to the disease. The Village strives to recreate the family unit, and gives children a safe place to grow up while sustainably meeting their everyday needs.

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March 31, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Education Insights across the Globe

by Kevin Silverman

My experience in Belize this past winter break was incredibly enlightening.  Since coming to William & Mary, I have taken several education classes, worked in education related community engagement groups, and had an internship in education.  Being part of William & Mary Students for Belize Education and traveling to Belize allowed me to gain more insight on problems in education.

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