I fell in love with the city of “Brotherly Love”

March 18, 2013











Our spring break was a little different from the average college students’ spring break. 14 college students from George Mason University went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for their spring break to volunteer in the schools and help clean up the community that is North Philadelphia.


The trip was truly an amazing one. People underestimate just how much of an impact a week long trip of service can have on someone. We were able to see just how good we have it with our education systems among various other things that we take for granted in our everyday lives.


The children we worked with at Freire Charter School and Spells Writing Lab were appreciative that we took time out of our busy schedules to help teach them. They did not want us to leave and we did not want to say goodbye as well.


The people of the community were welcoming and made sure to protect us at all times.  If you want to give back to the community and be treated with wonderful hospitality as well, the alternative break trip to Philadelphia is the one for you. You will learn so much and develop a bond with the children and the people of the community that will last a lifetime!







What happens in Jamaica STAYS in Jamaica… Not for me.

March 13, 2013

IMG_2761Note: This post was written by Macy Passawe, a participant on the 2013 AB trip to Jamaica.

What happens in Jamaica STAYS in Jamaica….  While that may be true for many seeking refuge in beautiful Jamaica, swinging in a hammock on the sands of the Caribbean sea sipping on a cool bottle of Ting, while vibing to Bob Marley’s Is this Love over the crashing waves as the sun goes down; as a participant of Alternative Breaks winter break service trip to Jamaica 2013, I simply can not leave all that I experienced in Jamaica to fester under the sun; my experience must be shared.

From the time we landed at the Montego Bay airport to returning on the following Saturday, I was in a state of euphoria.


Working with the beautiful faces of Hope Basic School was beyond enriching and insightful. What an encouragement it was to see the two teachers and how dedicated they were to teaching the children despite the vast difference between the materials provided to them and the materials afforded to the average preschooler/kindergartener of the greater Washington DC area.

They were an extremely bright energetic bunch and their addition of Jamaican culture was so beautiful to experience. I practically melted each time any one of them spoke; their accent in combination with their tiny voices was enough to make me want to shower them with overwhelming hugs and kisses!

As a student majoring in global affairs, pursing a minor in teaching English as a second language I was in an atmosphere that I felt so connected with. Since 6th grade I’ve wanted to join the Peace Corps and now being less than a year from that goal, this alternative breaks trip was just a taste of what I will be experiencing on a bigger scale in just a few months.

Hope Basic Dancing

The people of Jamaica were so welcoming and loving wanting to share their culture with us to the fullest extent. From ackee and salt fish to bonfires on the beach and all else in-between, they made sure we had a real taste of Jamaica.

I was blessed to go on such a great trip with a group of amazing women and lovely new friendships were birthed out of that experience. I am extremely excited for next winter break and look forward to going back to Jamaica with alternative breaks next year!

Anticipating the Trip

March 8, 2013

As you many of you may know, spring break has began! My spring break will not officially start until tomorrow when me and 13 other students from GMU board the megabus at Union Station. We will be going to Philly where we will be helping clean up the community and educate the youth at an after school writing program. This will be my second Alternative Break program and I could not be more thrilled. I have a passion for working with children. I am both grateful and thankful that this program here at GMU allows me to do just that! Stay tuned for pictures and more details on how the trip went in about a week or so! I look forward to sharing my amazing experience with you all!

答复: Reflections on Jamaica

February 22, 2013

– Posted by Sunzhe, an international Mason student from China



You will never know the happiness of transferring knowledge to someone unless you are fully involved with these adorable children.  – Sunzhe



AB Changed Me

February 22, 2013


Alter402675_2889687333011_787341491_nnative Breaks, an organization that I first learned of my freshmen year here at George Mason University. I went to an information session and I have not looked back since. I went to Jamaica during winter break of 2012. It was truly an experience that I will never forget! During this trip, I was able to successfully step out of my comfort zone and do things I thought I would never experience. The most fulfilling aspect of this trip were the children we worked with. They did not have much, but were very appreciative of us being there to help them and donate school supplies. The country as a whole was kind and welcoming. They were all poor for the most part, but they cherished the smaller things in life, which was one of my main takeaways from the trip. “You never know what you have until its gone.” This is a quote commonly used in our society, but it speaks volumes. All of the things we take for granted here such as hot water, the people of Jamaica do not even have the luxury to experience it. I cherish everything I have in my life all because of one AB trip to Jamaica. I plan to continue to go on more trips to make a difference, as well as learn about myself in the process! 408775_2881253722176_1681460616_n

Questioning the value of “Voluntourism”

February 20, 2013

I recently came across this article, “Does Voluntourism Do More Harm than Good?“” It is a good read and I encourage you to click over.

Students on CLCE’s Alternative Break trips ask this and other important questions of themselves – before the service, during and after it.

  • What is our impact here?
  • What are the root causes of the challenges being face here?
  • What are the needs here?
  • What assets does the community here have? Are we acknowledging them and helping to maximize them?

For me the most important question is a matter of learning to serve with our heads as well as our hearts.  Yes good intentions and a spirit of care matter.  But we need to think critically, do the research, and understand the issues and the community.

  • How can a group smart college students make a bigger impact here?  

While most of the time we can feel proud of the service we do within the confines of the Alternative Break trip, the true potential for impact is seen in what happens next.  What do we do with what we have learned on these trips?  Many students come home full of gratefulness to the community who welcomed them and taught them so much.  They are often fired up about raising funding to send back.  Go for it, and let me know how I can help.  What about advocacy?  What about influencing policy – governments, corporations, the World Bank or IMF or other organizations that need to hear about this community.

A more long term question is: What will you do with the privilege of a college education to make a difference?

Alternative Break trips can be incredibly powerful.  Some students come home and change their major, or shift their professional goals in ways that value making a difference over making piles of money.

If you choose to join us on an Alternative Break trip, or if you choose to engage in “volunteourism” (please choose a reputable agency to work with), please do so with mindfulness.  What is your impact here?  What are you learning?  What is needed in the long term that you can address?


Reflection on Jamaica AB, Rhonda Singleton

February 15, 2013

Rhonda 1

Note: This post was written by Rhonda Singleton, a participant on the 2013 AB trip to Jamaica.






When I discovered that the purpose of CLCE’s Jamaica trip was to promote early childhood education I knew that it was perfect for me- a preschool teacher. Going to Jamaica was a lifechanging experience for me that I will always hold on to . The children were so eager to learn & we were happy to work with them. We dont realize how fortunate we are when it comes to education here. Adults teach children so much, but we can learn so much more from them. This trip was a warm reminder that one of the best gifts we can ever give- is our time.











Jamaica AB, Maia Wise

February 15, 2013


Note: This post was written by Maia Wise, one of the team leaders of the 2013 AB trip to Jamaica.









My visit to Jamaica allowed me to reflect on the luxuries I take for granted. Things as simple as turning on the light when you walk in the room, charging your phone at night or showering indoors with hot water. But it also taught me that there are many people who can survive on very little and are still so much happier than us in America. Teaching at Hope Basic has allowed me to really step back and take a look at myself. Every night I wonder what can I do for someone else that will allow me to leave an ever lasting impression on their life.



Still thinking about Jamaica

February 11, 2013

Reflections on Alternative Break, January 2013.  

Hope School – Treasure Beach, Jamaica.

As always, my latest Alternative Break service experience has left me with a mash-up of conflicting thoughts and emotions. The attempt to reconcile them is no doubt very good for my growth.

As it happened, on the flight to Jamaica I read a compilation of research studies on positive psychology.  In particular, about the factors shown to contribute to feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Some of these include: positive close relationships with family and/or friends, having a sense of life purpose and meaning, and taking time to count blessings and be grateful.

The Jamaicans we lived among this week have an abundance of these things. In many ways they showed us how to live the good life, focusing on what is important.

Hope School






– Hope School, with view of the Caribbean Sea

But then I am asked by well-meaning friends, “Oh you were in Jamaica? Which resort?” reminding me of the Jamaica we didn’t see.

Jamaica Pool








It’s an image intended to tempt you there, but after the week our Mason team had there, it makes me sick to my stomach. A major challenge facing Jamaicans is a lack of water.  In the town near Hope School where we served, 500 people share a single spigot.  Imagine starting each day with a walk to fill a bucket with all the water you will have for the day.

The reality of “no water” is hard to fully grasp without living it.  Hope school is a two room school house with 25 children age 2-6.  Consider the daily bathroom breaks, the 50 little hands covered in playground dirt, needing to be washed before snacks and lunch. The teachers have a single bucket of water for washing and pouring into toilets that aren’t connected to water pipes.







– Hope School with students and teacher, “Auntie Merdi”

As the children fall down in the dirt during games of tag and rides down the slide, we have to pause and think about the parents who will have to wash the stains from their clothes. We know they don’t have a washing machine. Do they have any more water than the schoolhouse has?  How far do they have to walk to acquire even that much?

Slide Hope School






Mason students enjoying a break with Hope School students

The people we lived with this week do not have a lot of the material things that we think will lead us to happiness and wellbeing. No iPods, designer clothes, or flat screen TVs. Most are without electricity and running water.  Those who do manage to pay for power and water have such unreliable service, those who don’t (including our hosts) don’t believe they are missing much.

Jamaica has enough water for people to live more comfortably than this.  But they don’t have enough for both that and this.

Jamaica waterpark











For a hotel with access to the best beaches in the world, why is having a pool with waterslides more important than “Auntie Merdi” at Hope School having enough water to wash 50 little hands?

I already hear the arguments about what resorts do for the struggling economy.  With investments the owners can easily afford, water conservation technology could make a huge impact.

Please don’t visit a Caribbean resort without asking about this.

For now, I’m in a familiar state of limbo I call post-AB brain. I don’t pity the Jamaicans. In most ways they have taught me a way to live that is infinitely better for wellbeing than the rat race I live.  But I’m still spitting mad about the inequity of their situation.  The world will never be one where luxuries will be enjoyed equally, but basic human necessities for all should be a given before anyone goes around wasting them for entertainment and leisure.