I applied to attend the ABCs because I was interested in the theme for the week, asset based community development (ABCD). When I read the description of ABCD, it reminded me Café Reconcile, a great restaurant and organization in New Orleans (check it out! http://reconcileneworleans.org). I had visited Café Reconcile my junior year of high school during a service trip, and its economic model has been imprinted in my mind. I did not know how to transfer that idea to ASB, however, and that is why I wanted to attend the conference.
My week in Atlanta helped to clarify that ASB trips can participate in asset based community development by finding community partners that focus on this. For example, during the week we volunteered at Healthy Belvedere, Atwood Community Gardens, and Park Pride by doing landscaping work. All of these organizations used Atlanta’s assets (weather, empty lots, neighborhood pride etc.) to address the obesity epidemic in Atlanta.
The week was about more than just ABCD though. Half of the days were spent in workshops about all the different aspects of an ASB trip or at speaker panels with local community leaders. Ideas were exchanged between all of the different programs. It was great to hear about the different methods used by other programs and to meet other students involved in their respective programs. Although the week was exhausting, I left Atlanta feeling renewed and full of energy for the coming school year and more ASB experiences!
I didn’t really know what to expect going into the ABC’s in Atlanta. I’d never been to Atlanta before, and had only ever participated in one ASB trip. I wasn’t overly dedicated to the program, just very excited to become a trip leader. I didn’t have any major visions for ASB, our my trip for the next year. All I knew was that I had an open mind and a passion for enacting global change. This is what I brought with me to Emory University. I left with almost exactly the same things. However, this open-mindedness and passion had taken an entirely new form, one that completely understood the purpose of Alternative Breaks, Asset-Based Community Development, the meaning of having a group of strangers feel like family, and what it takes to make the impact I’ve always known I wanted to make.
Not only did I learn very thoroughly the eight components of a quality alternative break, I brainstormed ways these components could be revised to better the program at Lafayette. I fully understand what it means to build a community based on what it has, not what it needs. This idea is something that I have noticed several times since I’ve come home, and is something I will remember in the future as I start to develop programs in my community, whether it is next year in Easton or ten years from now. I’ve been inspired by the Alternative Breaks movement. Seeing how passionate others are about the programs at their school has motivated me to become part of the larger movement and try to get others to do so. I realized as I was in tears looking out the window of the airplane on the way home that the week I spent with Break Away was not your average Alternative Break trip. The friends I made and the ideas we exchanged has given me tremendous insight on what it truly means to be an active citizen.