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Past Alternative Break Programs and Impact


Programs can focus on one or more of the suggested social justice topics, based on existing relationships with community partner organizations. The Center for Community Engagement & Service has materials related to all of these past programs. Please schedule a meeting to request information about the community partners.


New Orleans

Social Justice Topics: Racial Disparities Of HIV Epidemic, Post-Katrina Rebuilding, Government Disaster Response

Washington, DC

Social Justice Topics: Inequalities In Education, HIV/AIDS Epidemic, Hunger And Homelessness, Gentrification And Community Organizing

San Francisco

Social Justice Topics: Queer Youth Homelessness, Prison Justice, Prison Industrial Complex

Navajo Nation

Social Justice Topics: Native American Rights, Uranium Mining, Environmental Justice

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Social Justice Topics: Education, Native American Rights, Youth Development, Poverty


Social Justice Topics: Civil Rights Movement, Immigration Reform


Social Justice Topics: Youth Empowerment, Food Security


Social Justice Topics: Environmental Justice, Coal Mining, Community Organizing

International Sites


Social Justice Topics: Human Rights, Indigenous Peoples, Women's Empowerment

South Africa

Social Justice Topics: Race, Class, Gender, Youth, Health, Labor, HIV/AIDS

Thai-Burma Border

Social Justice Topics: Democracy, Human Rights, Refugees, Political Process, Minority Groups, Political Prisoners, Gender


Social Justice Topics: Post-Conflict Development, Education, Women's Empowerment, Youth


Social Justice Topics: Rural Education, Community Organizing, Women's Empowerment, Microfinance, Grassroots Development, Access To Health Care

Israel and Palestine

Social Justice Topics: African Refugees, Grassroots Peace Movement, Non-Violent Resistance Movements


Social Justice Topics: Youth Political Engagement, Identity, Informal Settlements, International Development, Environmental Justice


Social Justice Topics: Anti-Discrimination Law, Roma, LGBTQ, and People With Disabilities


Social Justice Topics: Education, The Embargo, Economics

Southern India

Social Justice Topics: Caste Based-Discrimination, Dalit Rights, Women's Rights

Northern India

Social Justice Topics: Tibetan Refugees, Cultural Preservation, Politics, Environment


Social Justice Topics: Human Rights, US Military Involvement, Labor Rights, Multinational Corporations, Afro-Colombian Rights, Internally Displaced People

Northern Ireland

Social Justice Topics: Peace Building, Conflict Resolution, Education


Social Justice Topics: Environmental Resistance, Resource Extraction, Indigenous Peoples Rights, Cultural Preservation

Social Justice Topics: Community Development, HIV/AIDS, Access To Health Care

El Salvador

Social Justice Topics: Democracy, Human Rights, Immigration

Past Program Descriptions:

HIV/AIDS in Zambia

On this program students worked with leading NGOs and learned mechanisms for dealing with the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Students stayed in Lusaka working with orphanages and visited rural areas in Zambia where they saw first hand the impact of HIV/AIDS, and spoke with the youth of the country as to how they are dealing with the HIV/AIDS pandemic. A short trip to Livingston, home of Victoria Falls, ended the direct engagement portion of the program.

Guatemala: Fair Trade Coffee

This program was born out of organizing on campus during 2004-2005 for fair trade coffee. In the end, because of student activism, a fair trade coffee company, Pura Vida, won the contract over Starbucks. Riding on the momentum and alliances built, student coordinators organized a trip to Pura Vida's coffee plantations in Guatemala. The trip had financial support from the company as well as Bon Apetit. The on-the-ground logistics were organized by a group called Bridge Builders who led educational discussions on fair trade and sustainable development.

Honduras: Political Realities

Joe Eldridge, University Chaplain, initiated the Alternative Break program in 1998 with a program to Honduras to do rebuilding after hurricane Mitch. He has extensive knowledge of the region and contacts in all levels of civil society. Students learned a lot and had transformative experiences in meetings with government and non-government officials, a visit to a maquila factory, and volunteer work with a youth empowerment organization.

Appalachia: Rural Poverty and Community Development

This program partnered with the organization Beans and Rice, Inc. who planned the educational as well as service components of the program. Students worked with youth programs and did construction work, while they attended workshops that lead towards a certificate in community development.

Belize: Garifuna Culture

Two students from Caribbean circle club led this program. The theme of the trip was to examine social, political and cultural issues in Belize, focusing on the Garifuna population in the coastal areas. Student participants reported having a positive experience and built strong relationships with members of the Garifuna community. They did volunteer work with community partners in schools, women's organizations, and AIDS awareness.

Free Burma Coalition in Thailand

The Thailand program joined in solidarity with the Burmese democracy movement. Students critically examined refugee issues, US sanctions on Burma, governance within the Burmese government in exile and other sociopolitical organizations within the democracy movement, as well as the role of international institutions in responding to the complex humanitarian and political challenges to development in Burma.

Mexico/U.S. Border: Immigrant Rights

This program engaged in Tucson, AZ and towns in Mexico along the border. Students examined multiple sides of the immigration rights issue in the US by meeting with human rights groups, vigilantes, border guards, religious activists and a fair trade coffee cooperative. The students returned invigorated to work on the issues learned and jumped right in to the immigration protests that were held in Washington.

Nicaragua: Labor issues & CAFTA

Students traveled to Managua and focused on CAFTA and its impact on labor and trade in Nicaragua. Students met with key players on these issues as well as spent two days in a rural community volunteering with farmers and school teachers.

Ecuador: Indigenous Rights and the Environment

Students lived for a week in an indigenous area in the Andes mountains and a week with an indigenous community in the Amazon. The theme of indigenous people and the environment was explored through speakers, meetings, talking with community leaders and being immersed in daily life.

Ecuador: Land Rights in Indigenous Communities

This program focused on the indigenous movement in the culturally and ecologically diverse country of Ecuador. Specifically they look at issues of identity and globalization as shaping forces in the struggle for environmental and land rights for Kichwa Indian communities in the Sierra (Andes) region and the Oriente (Amazon) region. Students learned about nonviolent activism and the methods these communities are using to protect their rights in the face of globalization and development projects. This program is part of the continuing project to create a documentary film with the Sarayacu Kichwa community in the Oriente that is fighting oil extraction on their land. While staying in Amazon and Andes communities, students will have the opportunity to learn from another culture and open dialogue on issues such as globalization, resource extraction, activism, mobilization and environmental and land rights.

South Africa: Women's Initiative in Apartheid and AIDS

The post apartheid era has changed the lives of many South African women and their families. This Alternative Break to South Africa focused on the transformation of the women's movement from the time of the apartheid to an era where AIDS is prevalent. Participants learned about how wealth, poverty and health became determinants in the outcome of the women's movement. The program participants travelled to Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, visiting & meeting with NGO's, women's organizations, government officials, and volunteering with orphanages.

Biloxi, Mississippi: Community Renewal

Students joined Hands On Network in rebuilding areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. Particularly focused on social inequalities that exist in urban communities while specifically highlighting the racial and socioeconomic issues that emerged during the aftermath of the hurricane. The group met with community activists working in Biloxi to oppose a proposed casino in their neighborhood.

Chicago: Empowering Urban Youth

Social justice reflects the way in which human rights are manifested in the daily lives of individuals. Unfortunately, the United States does not ensure that all persons are afforded equity in access to rights. Youth under the age of 18, for instance, have unequal access to material needs. Of all age groups, youth have the highest proportion of persons in poverty. Children are also systematically disadvantaged within the education systems, as many at-risk children are sent to schools that lack equitable financial resources, practice systematic racism in tracking students into different levels according to race, or do not have the necessary support systems available. To exacerbate the problem, children often do not have voice on the issues that affect their equal access to human rights, as they are not able to vote and may feel limited in what they can do otherwise.

Students learned to critique inequality and create societal betterment through observation and direct work with an organization that works with youth.

The program worked with P.E.A.C.E.: People Educated Against Crime in Englewood. Students will work with children in the after school program to create an empowering mural with the children. Other organizations include the Chicago Food Repository and a Hunger Lesson, Urban Youth Journalism, the Hull House Museum and the Peace Musuem.

San Francisco: Prison Justice

This program focused on the complexities of the US current retributive justice system and examine the problematic aspects of such a system. Some issues that will be addressed while working in San Francisco are: women prisoners, youth in prison, government response to the system, a prison visit, prison abolitionist groups, inmate art, GLBTQ prisoners, and death penalty eradication.

Community engagement included volunteering and/or meeting with groups such as CA Coalition for Women Prisoners, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Copwatch, ACLU Prison Project, Critical Resistance, Books Not Bars, and the Prison Activist Resource Center.

South Dakota: The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

The program focused on the recognizing the US Federal Government's marginalization of American Indians. Participants were educated on the true history of US-native relations and policy. Students learned about the various policy attempts by the US government to address American Indians, from assimilation policy to land distribution policy.
Students were immersed in the Sioux community as much as possible. Service activities included: visiting or assisting in various shelters, visiting a rehabilitation center, working in an Indian Health Service hospital, working with the Little Wound Elementary school's Head Start Program, and/or preparing a one to two day conference for students interested in learning about how to open up a small business. The trip will also visit key geographic and sacred sites such as the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse memorial.

Washington, DC: HIV/AIDS Policy, Education, and Public Health

This program focused on AIDS Policy and Health Practices in Washington, DC. Washington, DC has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate for any metropolitan area in the United States. Members of the GLBT community and of minority groups are highly active in dealing with AIDS issues. Recently, public officials have made calls for universal AIDS testing for all DC residents. In addition to exploring the larger social issues related to HIV/AIDS in DC, program participants then lobbied the appropriate members of local and federal government about relevant policies pertaining to funding for AIDS education, prevention, and treatment programs in the District. The program also focused on service to HIV and AIDS patients in DC.

Some organizations and groups that participants met with and/or worked with are: MetroTeen AIDS, Whitman Walker Clinic, DC Congresswoman Norton, DC Department of Public Health, DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, National Minority AIDS Education and Training Center and the Women's Collective.


Venezuela: Chavez's Social Reforms

Alumni Update Article, April 2007, on Venezuela Trip

Global Exchange facilitated this program that focused on social reforms and changes in leadership in Venezuela today. Chavez has made some radical changes, and the trip looked at the portrayal by the US media and government. We saw these reforms and changes firsthand through visiting missions (centers for social services) in the countryside and in the urban areas. We were in Caracas and spent two nights in a coastal Afro-Venezuelan community. We exchanged with students at a university in Caracas.

Educational and medical centers set up around the country are called missions. These are very new and are a part of the attempt by Chavez and his administration to spread wealth and opportunity throughout the Venezuelan population.

Other meetings were held with: Telesur, Bolivarian University, Barrio 23 de Enero, Colectivo Alexis Vive, Radio Comunitario Petare, Venezuela's National Petroleum company, BANMUJER (Banco de la Mujer, the Women's Bank), and more…

Bolivia: Indigenous Rights and the Presidency of Evo Morales

The main focus of this program was the plight of the indigenous people of Bolivia. While Bolivia maintains the same unstable political climate it has since the arrival of the conquistadors, things are beginning to take an interesting turn. Evo Morales became the first indigenous President of Bolivia, and like most leaders, he promised his people that he would focus on the national interest of his nation. His pledges, however, were different in the sense that they focused on the national interest of the majority of Bolivians: the indigenous peoples. This program investigated Morales' policies and how all aspects of Bolivia, not just political areas have changed during his year in office. We visited local indigenous groups who are fighting for power and those losing (poorer marginalized neighborhoods). We also met government officials to learn their prerogative firsthand.

Brazil: Landless Peasants Movement (MST)

This program focused on the successful model of community organizing exhibited by the Movimento dos Trabalhadored Rurais Sem Terra (MST). This group proposes a more just and sustainable alternative of social organization to the unjust land distribution of Brazil. Our program included service in helping with the building of the University of the Land, and emphasized community engagement through dialogue with the members of the MST and their opposition.

Thailand/Burma Border: Burmese Democracy Movement

This program focused on the human rights violations facing the Burmese people, including those living inside the country and the Burmese refugees living on the Thai-Burma border. It also emphasized how the people within the movement are working towards democracy and social equality within their country, and how the international community can act in solidarity with their struggle for a free Burma.

Through various meetings with exiled political parties, women's organizations, Western and Thai NGOs, refugees, migrant workers, and former political prisoners, students gained a broader understanding of the socio-economic, political and historical situation of the Burmese people.

If you want to learn more information on the conflict in Burma, check out the US Campaign for Burma, the NGO started by AU grad, Jeremy Woodrum.

China: Environment

This program focused on the environmental issues in China. Students learned about China's energy system, worked with Chinese environmental NGO's, compared the differences between East and West, rural and urban and had the opportunity to speak with local university students.

The program also focused on indoor air pollution, which is the leading cause of death among young children in China. Students will meet with the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air which address issues such as renewable energy, deforestation, and health. Students visited the Nature Conservancy in Lijiang.