Chief among the aspects of serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member that I most appreciate are the expansive opportunities for professional development. Recently, I learned more about the alternative breaks movement and its national group, Break Away, during the weekend of November 4th to November 6th at Break Away’s 25th Anniversary Celebration Weekend, or #25yearsofbreakaway.
Break Away (link to homepage) is, essentially, the trade group for people involved in attending, creating, and hosting college alternative break groups. Almost all of REACH’s alternative break groups this year are through Break Away—it really is fully representative of the alternative break movement.
My #25yearsofbreakaway work team was asked to provide stereotypes about the causes of homelessness in DC. Notice that the actual causes are much less based on individual choice.
I absolutely loved the #25yearsofbreakaway weekend, during which I met representatives from our first (UNC Greensboro in November) and second-to-last (Clemson in March) groups, as well as two of the authors of Working Side by Side (Amazon link)— the definitive handbook for organizing alternative breaks. I met Sam and Tia, with whom I had exchanged emails, as well as with the other leaders at Break Away. I also made connections with program directors of the Steinbruck Center, the Lutheran community organizing center that hosts alternative breaks and serves as an excellent example of how churches can pivot into sustained, committed community involvement.
Break Away tightly wove the golden threads of service and sharing into #25yearsofbreakaway. Local residents shared their experiences of living in a rapidly gentrifying area of DC. We acted in service at several local sites and learned of the true causes of homelessness in the Greater Washington area (see above image).
Although the #25yearsofbreakaway weekend was short, it was an invaluable introduction to the essentials (and essence) of the alternative breaks movement. I left the weekend sure that REACH was squarely on the path to providing meaningful and sustainable alternative breaks. And that’s a great feeling!
You can learn more about REACH’s alternative breaks program by visiting our Alternative Breaks page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.