2014 Branch Out National Alternative Breaks

Twelve opportunities to partner with communities for social justice

Addressing the Opportunity Gap: Education Inequality in Rural America
Gaston, NC
Site leaders: [[e|etfaltermeier, Erin Faltermeier]] and [[e|dckent, Daniel Kent]]

On this trip our team will form a deeper understanding of educational inequalities and the many challenges of rural poverty through direct service working with teachers and students in rural North Carolina. We will work with a Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter school as hands-on aids in daily classroom activities in order to gain a greater understanding of the role played by charter schools in addressing the disparities in our educational system. We will further examine community dynamics and how they relate to educational outcomes through service in the greater community. Through this experience we will have the opportunity to perform direct service at a high performing charter school, develop a broader understanding of the challenges facing our educational system, and meet the wonderful people of Gaston, NC! Additionally we plan to partner with other community members in the area in order to engage youth outside of the classroom. We will stay in the spacious basement in the home of a nearby family.

Beyond Spare Change: Exploring the Relationships between Homelessness and Urban Poverty 
Baltimore, MD
Site Leaders: [[e|mefoley, Meghan Foley]] and [[e|kylu, Katherine Lu]]

We'll be spending the week in Baltimore moving beyond surface level interactions and really exploring the relationship between homelessness and urban poverty as a whole. We will be working with Catholic Charities, a comprehensive social justice organization that seeks to combat poverty through both immediate services and long term assistance, which allows us to consider the issues from multiple angles. We'll have the opportunity to gain some hands-on experience working with programs that provide services ranging from providing hot meals, giving case work assistance, and helping find employment opportunities.

Bridging Generations: Reaching Out to Isolated and Lonely Senior Citizens
Richmond, VA
Site leaders: [[e|sccarroll, Sarah Carroll]] and [[e|rcneely, Rachel Neely]]

On this trip, participants will collaborate with Senior Connections’ Friendship Cafe and Circle Center in Richmond, Virginia. At Friendship Cafe, volunteers will craft nutritious meals and form bonds with elderly visitors. At Circle Center, they will assist in facilitating activities aimed toward the rehabilitation of physical, cognitive, and mental capabilities. The ultimate goal of this trip will be to learn about the effects of isolation on the physical, mental, and emotional wellness of the elderly. Through these services, we will foster intergenerational respect and community. We will stay in a local church.

Fill in the Blank: Providing Health Care to Those Who Lack Access in Rural Communities  
Kilmarnock, Virginia
Site Leaders: [[e|lsfoley, Leah Foley]] and [[e|matinder, Maia Tinder]]

This trip will visit the Northern Neck Free Health Clinic in Kilmarnock, Virginia, whose mission is to fill critical health care gaps in their community. The clinic serves low-income uninsured residents from surrounding counties. We will volunteer in the clinic by conducting patient eligibility screenings, shadowing in the medical clinic, and working in the pharmacy. We will also help to expand the clinic’s web page and develop marketing tools and materials for the clinic. By working at the clinic, our team will gain a better understanding of both the free health clinic model, and the challenges of providing health care to rural communities. We will stay in on-site dormitories at the clinic, while volunteering in the clinic during the day. 

Greenhouse Powerhouse: Exploring Sustainable Food Systems and Empowering Locals at Lynchburg Grows
Lynchburg, VA
Site Leaders: [[e|nrhandley, Noella Handley]] and [[e|cssantoso, Clarissa Santoso]]

Lynchburg Grows is a non-profit organization located in historic Lynchburg, Va. Their mission as an urban farm is to provide people with special needs a space to share their talents and skills while acquiring new ones. The property is primarily made up of nine greenhouses that serve community projects such as youth education on food sustainability, growing vegetable donations, providing alternative fuels, and more! During the trip, we will focus on community development through urban farming and sustainable food systems. We will take a hands-in-the-dirt approach to learn how sustainable food production promotes a healthy planet and explore how horticulture at Lynchburg Grows empowers people with disabilities to be active community members. We will be staying in a nearby church. Join us in engaging the community and show-off your green thumb this Spring Break at Lynchburg Grows! 

Hammering Out Homelessness: Building Up Communities Through Affordable Housing
Mount Pleasant, SC
Site Leaders: [[e|kckrause, Karin Krause]] and [[e|jwschneider, Jake Schneider]]

We will be spending the week in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina volunteering with the East Cooper Habitat for Humanity. Our work with Habitat for Humanity will teach us how affordable housing programs alleviate the issue of homelessness and empower communities. In our service we will help build homes side-by-side with the community and future home-owners. Don’t worry, no previous construction experience is required!

Hungry for Justice: Exploring the Intersections of Hunger, Homelessness, and Jobs for People Who Were Previously Incarcerated
Washington, DC
Site Leaders: [[e|ahdoane, Allison Doane]] and [[e|mapillepich, Michelle Pillepich]]

We will spend the week working with DC Central Kitchen, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting the root causes of hunger. DCCK is so much more than a "soup kitchen"-- we will learn about their other programs such as culinary job training, school partnerships for healthy meals, relationships with local farmers and convenience stores to reduce food waste and increase the availability of nutritious food. DCCK's culinary job training program is a unique method of combating one of the primary drivers of hunger-- unemployment, which can be a particularly real obstacle for a person who was formerly incarcerated. Join us as we work alongside those who face the daily realities of hunger and those who dedicate their lives to making sure that no one goes hungry.  We will learn about the root causes and ways we can prevent hunger both in Washington D.C. and our local community. We will be staying in a nearby hostel.

Imagine the World in Books: Promoting Literacy with Early Childhood Education
Washington, DC
Site leaders: [[e|tevonstetten, Tim von Stetten]] and [[e|csleong, Cassandra Leong]]

Join us in investigating the diverse challenges facing urban schools in America as we learn about how to combat the “book gap” and education inequality. During our trip, we will be working with elementary school students in the classroom as teachers’ assistants as well as creating  and implementing projects to foster a love for reading and increased  accessibility to books. We will be working with local teachers to provide age-appropriate activities for the students at two schools: KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Public Charter School and Apple Tree Institute. These schools are providing unique approaches to early childhood education, and we will seek to learn from their efforts while giving back through our service. Our community partner, a W&M and Branch Out National alumna, is a teacher for DC Public Schools, and will be able to provide us with another view of the education system.  We will stay in a nearby hostel.

Justice for the Mountains: Spring Break in Appalachia, VA
Appalachia, VA
Site Leaders: [[e|jnhall, Jamie Hall]] and [[e|swnordstrom, Scott Nordstrom]]

Come join us to learn about one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time: Mountaintop Removal (MTR). During our time in Appalachia (a town in southwest Virginia), we’ll experience firsthand the environmental, health, economic, and social impacts it has on Appalachian communities as we meet with community members to learn about organizing and resistance efforts. Our days will consist of workshops and service field trips and our evenings will wind down with amazing local/regional music and campfires sharing stories with a diverse group of others dedicated to the cause of ending MTR. Service opportunities will include working on mountain bike/hiking trails, helping to weatherize homes for low income community members, and clearing invasive species. While service will help us engage and help the community members during the break, workshops will give us the tools to continue addressing the issue of MTR when we get home. Through the workshops we will learn more about the history of coal and MTR, power dynamics, creating sustainable systems, and techniques in nonviolent direct action. At the end of the week, an optional nonviolent direct action will occur supporting local campaigns working to end MTR and culminating all the aspects of our trip. We will be partnered with Mountain Justice, a network of organizations and individuals working to stop MTR, strip mining for coal, and to build a bright future for the Appalachian region.

Labor Rights and Living Wages: Exploring the Issues in Philadelphia with Arch Street UMC
Philadelphia, PA
Site Leaders: [[e|sbdufour, Sara Dufour]] and [[e|mejamerson, Ellie Jamerson]]

This trip to Philadelphia, PA will focus on labor rights. We'll be returning for our sixth year to work with Arch Street United Methodist Church on issues related to labor and poverty, and continuing a building project that last year's team began. Over the trip we’ll be taping interviews with employees, employers, and speakers recorded throughout the week, from which we will create a final video montage. We will be staying in a church.

Spreading Knowledge, Not Ignorance:  Promoting HIV/AIDS Prevention and Awareness in the Richmond Community
Richmond, VA
Site Leaders: [[e|cemabon, Charlotte Mabon]] and [[e|jatan, Jenna Tan]]

Are you familiar with the fact that 1 in 5 individuals with HIV infection in the U.S. are unaware of their condition?  Eastern Virginia has the highest rate of people living with HIV/AIDS in the state, with over 2,500 people affected in Richmond alone.  Working with the Health Outreach Department at the Fan Free Clinic in Richmond, students will help bring services and spread information on HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness within the community.  It is essential that individuals coming on this trip are open-minded and understanding as well as passionate about helping people in socially vulnerable circumstances.  This trip will involve working and interacting with individuals in the LGBTQQ community, the homeless, recent and current jail inmates, drug rehabilitation clients, and persons living with HIV/AIDS.  Students will gain an eye-opening insight to the duality of the HIV/AIDS problem, by exploring the challenges imposed on health outreach organizations seeking to give care and knowledge to at-risks individuals, while understanding the larger societal systems at play that hinder over-looked and stigmatized populations from seeking help and having access to proper knowledge of HIV/AIDS.  We will be staying in a nearby church.

Virginia Organizing: Grassroots Community Organizing, Engagement, and Empowerment
Danville, VA
Site Leaders: [[e|mwhyler, Mattie Hyler]] and [[e|djmoretz, Derek Moretz]]

Virginia Organizing is a non-partisan statewide grassroots organization dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives. Virginia Organizing especially encourages the participation of those who have traditionally had little or no voice in our society. By building relationships with individuals and groups throughout the state, Virginia Organizing strives to get them to work together, democratically and non-violently, for change. Throughout the week we will canvass in the community to encourage participation from community members and meet with community leaders while learning to use grassroots organizing to affect change on both the local and state levels. We will stay in a nearby church.