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9 Quality Components of an Alternative Break

Each of the following components is vital to providing a quality break experience. Without one, the impact is lessened. When all components are developed thoroughly, there is real transformational power in the Alternative Break experience for participants and for the hosting organization/community.

    Prior to departure, participants areoriented to the mission and vision of the community partner or organization(s) with which they are working. Participants are encouraged to look at the context of the work of the organization(s) within the broader community and to become allies to their mission and vision through direct service.

    Programs provide an opportunity for participants to engage in direct or "hands-on" projects and activities that addresses critical but unmet social needs, as determined by the community. Community interaction during service projects and throughout the week is highly encouraged during breaks

    Programs include issue-specific educational sessions that participants attend prior to and perhaps during their alternative break. These sessions provide participants with the historical, political, social, and cultural context of the social problems they will be working with during the break. Effective education provides fa​cts and opinions from all perspectives on the issue, including ways that the participants' personal life choices are connected to the social issue.

    Participants are provided with adequate training in skills necessary to carry out tasks and projects during the trip. This training may be provided before or during the break. Examples of training include teaching basic construction, learning how to read with children, or gaining first aid skills.

    During the trip, participants reflect upon the experiences they are having. Participants synthesize the direct service, education, and community interaction components while applying classroom learning and integrating many academic disciplines. The site leaders set aside time for reflection to take place, both individually and in a group setting, to better illuminate the effects of identity and social structures.

    Upon return to campus, participants transfer lessons learned on their break by identifying local organizations for continued education or service. Participants often translate their experiences into a lifelong commitment to active citizenship by raising awareness for social issues and organizing or joining other groups to take action on local issues through direct service, advocacy, and/or philanthropy. Through these activities, participants continue their volunteer efforts in their local area, learn about possible internships, engage politically in their community, obtain resources for continued education on social issues, and make life choices that benefit the entire community.

    Alternative break programs include participants representing the range of students present in the campus community. Coordinators should recruit for, design, implement and evaluate their program with this end in mind. Breaks engage participants in a dialogue that furthers understanding of how systems of power, privilege, and oppression relate to social issues present within communities.

    We expect participants to fully engage in service with their group and community partner. Issues of legality, liability, personal safety and group cohesion are of concern when alcohol and other drugs are consumed on an alternative break

    Alternative Breaks strives to provide environmental, economic, and social sustainable experiences for students. This includes low-cost housing focusing on minimalistic living. Sustainability also considers the environmental impact of an Alternative Break, which offers basic accommodations, family-style meals, and reuses materials whenever possible. Alternative Breaks seek to maintain long-term partnerships with community organizations and partners to ensure the sustainability of the program as a whole.

    Source: Break Away