Branch Out Alternative Breaks

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

April 16, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Lasting Change in a Community

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.

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April 15, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Hungry for Justice

by Maab Yasin

The amount of blessings that came out of this trip are too many to count and they have been stitched together to form a permanent smile across my heart. The DC Central Kitchens crew probably has the highest concentration of humble, genuine, supportive, down-to-earth, honest and all around beautiful people in one organization I have ever had the pleasure of encountering. My branch out team was composed of a refreshingly dynamic group of passionate, caring and energetic people who made the trip even more meaningful than I thought it would be.

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April 15, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Tribe Hammers Homelessness!

by Edith Amponsah

This past spring break was the best I’ve experienced yet, and it was because of the Branch Out National trip which I took part in. We visited Mount Pleasant, S.C. to work with Habitat for Humanity partners building a house. Before this trip, I had a small experience working with Habitat for Humanity but none of that prepared me for the experience I was about to have in Mount Pleasant. I had always known that homelessness was a problem in the U.S., but my knowledge I found out soon, was immature. The pre-trip meetings which the trip leaders held prepared us for the trip through a series of educational modules. Neither I nor my friends truly understood the difficulty and responsibilities of living under the poverty line and not having a place to live. By making us aware of this social issue, our trip leaders taught us to be appreciative of all of life’s circumstances, a lesson which shaped not only shaped our thinking but our attitudes as we embarked on this trip.

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April 15, 2014
by Melody Porter
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Proactive Steps Toward Progress

by Ellie Jamerson

This past spring break I went to Philadelphia, PA to work with POWER and Arch Street on labor rights and living wages. Before departing for the trip, I expected certain activities to be challenging, but I did not have too many expectations. I wanted to keep an open mind so that I could really absorb my surroundings. All in all, I took away more from this trip than I could ever have anticipated.

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April 15, 2014
by Melody Porter
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My Alternative Break at the Northern Neck Free Health Clinic

by Inanje Mintz

This Spring Break, I was fortunate enough to volunteer at the Northern Neck Free Health Clinic (NNFHC) in Kilmarnock, VA.  Working at the clinic was an incredible experience.  Our Branch Out group tackled the issue of providing healthcare in rural populations. Our social issue focused on filling the health care gap and providing efficient care to those who are low-income and uninsured.   The patients who visit the clinic are below the poverty level. The clinic is able to provide free doctor visits, free prescriptions and other medications, as well as dental care and surgery for a lifetime fee of $25.

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April 15, 2014
by Melody Porter
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The Promise: Hope, Housing, and Beyond

by Wei Chang

As we stepped into the Laredo airport, it was an unexpected scene of cultural influence from the local and perhaps from the country that borders the town. As the chapter director of Habitat for Humanity at Laredo explained to us, “We are a little bit of Texas, a little bit of Mexico, but mostly a whole lot of Laredo.” In the few days that we were there, it was incredibly interesting for us to see the elements of U.S. and Mexican culture blend in the area. Laredo is home to the largest inland port on the U.S.-Mexico border. However, it is also one of the poorest area of the United States with 29.8 % of people living below the poverty level between 2008 and 2012 (U.S. Census). With the low income level, many people cannot afford housing. Habitat for Humanity in the area serves its mission by building affordable housing in Laredo for families that would have otherwise been in difficult living conditions. Among the construction site leaders and people from Habitat for Humanity, many stories were told describing the powerful moment of the house ceremony. For families that had to all share one room before to have their own house, it was a transformation. It was also a reminder of hope and a chance for the children in the family to receive education opportunities and perhaps be the first in the family to attend college. Stories of family from the past and the possibilities for the children in the future demonstrate to the volunteers and the community that change is possible. In that sense, the neighborhood cannot find a more suitable name than “Tierra Prometida” or Promised Land.

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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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