We leave in, like, 8 hours!!

Since the first alternative break trip I took three years ago I have dreamed of this moment. I always knew that I wanted to take a team to El Salvador on an ASB trip before I graduated from Lafayette, and here I am, eight hours from the beginning of this journey. As compared with other members of my team, I have a really good idea of what to expect from this trip. I have been to El Salvador six times to do similar service work, and I already know a lot of the people we will be working with this time around. What’s different for me is that I have never helped to lead a team there in the capacity I am now. This reality makes me incredibly nervous, but also incredibly excited to see what my amazing team will accomplish in the next couple of days.

Cesar Chavez once said, “Once social change begins it can not be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.” This social change is what I hope my team discovers during this trip. Though it will be a heartbreaking, eye-opening, sometimes painful experience, the lessons learned from doing service work with those in developing nations is an experience that you can’t ever forget. I hope in attending this trip there is a fire lit in people’s hearts, and they will understand what it means to be privileged in our society. I also hope they discover that they are always capable of promoting change.

As we board our flight early tomorrow morning, I will brace myself for a rewarding and unforgettable experience. I hope it will be a reminder to me of what it means to be an active citizen and advocate for those who cannot themselves.


Eight months ago when I first found out that I would be leading this trip to Texas, the one I saw develop into a real trip from its beginning, I was not at all nervous to be going. Now, as I’m sitting in the airport with my amazing team as we’re waiting to board our plane, I’ve got some minor jitters about the journey we are about to take, but mostly the upmost confidence that we will have a terrific experience.

I’ve taken several service trips in the past couple of years since I started going to Lafayette, two of which were ASB trips, all of which were amazing. There is something about this particular trip, however, that stands out to me as being almost “magical”. Maybe it’s that it’s the first one that I’m leading, or maybe it’s because I’ve never been to Texas before and it seems like an entirely different world. Maybe it is my fantastic team I have the pleasure of spending the week with. Whatever it is, the entire trip seemed to come together in the most perfect way. We’ll get to meet a former Lafayette ASB president who happens to live in the exact city where we’re staying. We’ll also be doing a combination of direct service and educational training, what I think is the best formula for a rewarding ASB experience. We have a solid reorientation plan in place already and we haven’t even started our trip yet. Everything down to the activities we’ve been recommended to do during our down time: visiting a nature preserve, going to the beach, salsa dancing?!?!

I’m so so incredibly excited to see what this week has in store for our team. Whatever minor incidents happen along the way, I’m positive nothing will be able to drop the high bar this trip has set for us. Maybe it’s a mistake to be so sure, but for me, I think believing in a little magic is a good thing.


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.

Back to Reality

I miss D.C. immensely. I miss the group of friends I spent the week with, the kids we worked with day to day, the city skyline at night, getting lost in the vans, and having lengthy, late night discussions that made me feel like change was necessary, and very, very possible. The only thing I don’t miss from that week is probably having to shower in a box.

I had wondered before I left for the trip how this trip might compare with the mission trips to El Salvador I have taken in the past five years. What was different was not so much even the trip itself, but the way others received my experience upon my return home. When I told people that I went on an ASB trip to Washington, D.C. to learn about and combat hunger and homelessness, the only thing they asked me was, “How was it?” This question was not what I expected. When I came back from El Salvador, not only did I get that question, but I got, “What did you do there?”

The reason this is so significant I think is not because I went to a different country, but because I think people think that they already know a lot about hunger and homelessness issues. This is what I thought, too, before I went on the trip. To me, this is really awful. I learned so much from being in D.C., and while before I had thought that maybe the needs of those in other countries are probably more because they didn’t have as sturdy a government as we do, now I think that maybe domestic issues are just as important to address. Some parts of our work in Washington hit a little too close to home for me, and had I not been on the trip I would not have learned of all the ways that I can be a better member of my society. It also propelled me to want to educate others on this issue in a big way. I’m hoping our reorientation project will do just that.


For the evening, we had one simple task. Having been assigned a specified square in D.C., we were supposed to discover for ourselves the faces and challenges of being homeless for one very chilly evening. To do this we were given only a few supplies: a bus ticket, two dollars each, a map of our area, and the instructions to have a meal with someone and a conversation about homelessness in the city, and somehow get them a pair of socks. With the correct attitude, this seemed easy enough to my group. What we learned in the process of our endeavors is hopefully something that will stick with us for the rest of our lives.

We started out with an idea. We needed to earn more money somehow. While contemplating our options, we scoped out Dupont Circle to see what was around to eat and who our dinner guest might be. After determining that we had pretty limited options in dining on six dollars, we figured talking to some people about the issues at hand might help us out. We spoke with a woman representing a newspaper about homelessness, and she explained to us that the shelters present in the Dupont Circle area were dirty, the food was not good, and the people weren’t really treated like people. Devastated to hear about her one bad experience, we left feeling a little more sorry for the people we were supposed to be servicing during the evening. Quickly, however, this notion was reversed by an old man who had approached us the next block up. He told us that many of the panhandlers on the streets were faking homelessness, and that in reality pretending was just an easy way for them to get money. We thanked him for his insight, he gave us his blessing, and we were on our way, bitterly conflicted that we may wind up helping the wrong person.

Still, our main concern was being able to afford food to share with the right person, and so our hunt for more spending money ensued. After receiving a free pair of socks from a very kind man who was selling them on the street, and buying a newspaper for a dollar from the first woman we spoke to, we had five dollars to our name, which was not very promising for a meal for four.  Kait and I got our courage up to approach two generous young boys on the sidewalk. We explained to them our issue, and with a little haggling they forfeited another six dollars. Boy, were we lucky that people were so kind! We had doubled our budget!

As there were no McDonalds and no real grocery stores in the area, we settled for what we thought would be the best bet for getting a good hot meal for under $11: Subway. Two $5 foot long hot meatball subs cut into two pieces each gave us four sandwiches, and with tax, it had cost us exactly $11! The prior coincidences in the day led us to believe that everything had to have happened to us exactly this way for a reason.

So, here we were, completely ready to start our mission, when we walk out of Subway and find that we cannot find any one in need of our meal. After much searching, we finally came to a man sleeping on the steps of a bank, and offered him our sandwich. He was grateful, but declined our request to sit down to eat with him. I was a little disappointed, but figured it was okay since we were the ones who had woken him up from sleeping.

Still, the whole bus ride back to our meeting place I had contemplated what had happened in the past couple of hours. At first, I thought we had failed. Then, upon further thought, I realized that the actual meal part if the trip was not the task, but a tool. Sure, we hadn’t exactly had a conversation with the man sleeping at the bank, but in order to offer him a sandwich, we had encountered several different people who had taught us more about homelessness in D.C., exactly what we were meant to do in the first place. We did not have the satisfaction watching the man eat, but instead we learned a lot about life. The newspaper woman taught us that people are people, and no matter what happens to them in life, they should be treated as such. The man who stopped us on the corner explained that things may not always be as they seem to be. This, I know, can go both ways. Someone who may not seem to be struggling could be bearing an enormous pain inside; then again, those how seem to be in need may be getting along just fine. Finally, the two boys and the street vendor showed that human kindness can go a long way. Many people are willing to give of themselves when asked, with no prior knowledge of a situation or the people in them.

At first I had thought that when I heard about the other group’s experiences, I might be a little jealous that they got more out of their day than we did. Thinking about all that I had discovered, though, I knew my group’s experience was perfect. The guy on the street corner had given us his blessing, and I knew it had carried through during our entire journey. Whatever it was that was keeping an eye on us at Dupont Circle today had helped us achieve our goal, and forced us to really understand the more about ourselves and our lives.

The last time I have been to Washington, D.C. was five years ago, on a two day long class field trip- the most long-awaited trip of me and my peers’ young adult lives. From what I remember about the trip, I had an amazing time. This was probably because while our main objective of the trip was to learn something about our nation’s capital and see its various monuments and museums, I was more concerned with what I was going to wear to the party cruise we were going to take on the first night, or who made out with who on the bus to the Lincoln Memorial. Back then I had romantic views about the city, views that haven’t exactly changed since then. I have worked with hunger and homelessness in El Salvador for the past four years; I think the shock of seeing the conditions some people are forced to live in has worn off. Still, though, I think that in my home country, with people who are very much more like me than many of the people of El Salvador, seeing hunger and homelessness this way will be a pretty big shock to my system. I’m hoping to learn a lot from this trip, and I have positive high expectations for my experiences in the coming week. I’m definitely a little nervous, especially because I will be the only first year in our group, but I am really looking forward to getting to know everyone and having a lot of fun! So, tonight I am throwing my nerves out the window and saying, “Bring it on, D.C.!” I can’t wait to see what this week holds for me.