Alternative Break Planning Guide
What is in the Alternative Break Planning Guide?
- What is an Alternative Break
- Getting started
- Finding the right trip for your group
- Types of questions to ask
- Communicating with AB organizations
- Organizing on campus
- Student Participants and meetings
- Advertisement and participant recruitment
- Orientation and pre-trip information
- Student Participants and meetings
- On Campus Fundraisers
- Off Campus Fundraisers
- Grant opportunities
- Return and Wrap up
- Continuing education efforts
What is an Alternative Break (AB) Trip:
Alternative break trips provide students with the opportunities to volunteer, learn, and grow through providing services to different communities. Trip locations can be in or out of the country and work by immersing students into a new community. Alternative break trips give students the opportunity to learn about issues that face communities globally, such as poverty, homelessness, racism, literacy, spirituality/religion, and the environment. To learn about these topics, alternative break trips delve into hands-on learning, whether it be building houses and schools, volunteering in community centers and in class rooms, providing health care services, or education on important governmental policies, there are AB possibilities for every interest.
Depending on your RSO, team, or group affiliation, participants will desire different types, focuses, or needs for Alternative Breaks. There are endless possibilities available. Break Away is an organization that can help pair groups interested in AB trips with an NGO or organization with matching interests (http://www.alternativebreaks.org/). The Community Service Office located on the ground floor of Ellis Hall within Career Services can help JC students contact and utilize Break Away.
Other colleges or universities can also provide information on Alternative Break options. Use the internet to search for different types of Alternative Breaks offered by other universities. Follow-up your search by contacting the universities to learn more about their programs.
Questions to Consider:
You should research a variety of Alternative Break opportunities before deciding which trip to participate in. Information to take into consideration when determining the best trip for your group includes:
- What is the cost of the program?
- What will it cost to travel to the program’s destination (tolls, van rental, gas money, air fare, airport parking)?
- What invisible costs of the program (food, spending money, price of calling cards, first-aid kit) do we need to be prepared for?
- How long will it take us to travel from Juniata College to our destination? Is that realistic for us? (Distance and travel time is important to take into consideration, because it may impact classes and travel costs.)
- Is there a maximum or a minimum number of participants allowed?
- Juniata College does not require trips to have a staff or a faculty member; however, some affiliated organizations do require a college employee to be present on the trip. Does your RSO want or need a faculty or an administrator to go on the trip? If so, who will you ask?
- What are the policies or affiliation of the organization hosting the trip? (For example, AB trips affiliated with a religious group might have religious requirements for their participants.)
- Do you need to apply for the program, if so, when is the application deadline?
- Do we need to send in a deposit and if so, how much?
Making a spread sheet comparing the costs and benefits of different trips will help you determine your best option.
Communicating with the Organization Hosting the AB trip:
Organizations with Alternative Break programs have a specific contact person. Keeping constant and clear communication with the AB program affiliate is necessary when planning your trip. The AB contact can provide valuable information in regards to planning and organizing the trip, answering all questions pertaining to the trip, and even helping provide ideas for fundraising. The organization AB contact person will be able to inform you of application deadlines, medical considerations, and making transportation arrangements. If any paperwork needs to be completed, the AB contact person will provide you with all the appropriate paper work, which possibly includes: applications for passports, visa applications, vaccination verification, participant release forms, and insurance information.
Student Participants and Informational Meetings:
Advertisement and the First Meeting: Before your club, team, or group can commit to participating in an AB program you must recruit the student participants. To advertise for the AB trip you can make flyers, posters, radio announcements, talk with faculty and classes, and/or have the event in the Juniata announcements. The first meeting should focus on providing general information and recruiting students. It is important to be up-front with the students so they know what to expect and can discuss it with their families and friends.
Getting Student Commitment (Deposits): As the deadline for the trip approaches you will need a concrete list of student participants. The best way to secure committed participation is to ask for student deposits. Students should give the RSO a deposit payment to ensure their participation on the trip. The group can then send in a deposit to the organization hosting the AB trip (most organizations require deposits as a means to ensure the groups participation). You may want to make it clear whether the deposit is non-refundable or not and how much the trip will cost for the participant if all the fundraisers fall through. (Please know that once an airplane reservation is made in a student’s name, that airline ticket cannot be transferred over to another person.)
Orientation and Pre-trip Information:
Prior to leaving for the trip, students should have an orientation process and regular group meetings. The advisor and student planners should develop an orientation program for the student participants to help them learn about the goals of the AB trip, prepare for the emotional, physical, and emotional stress of the trip, and learn about the people they will be working with. Topics to include in orientation are:
- Information on the type of AB trip (housing projects, food projects, religious projects)
- Information on the organization or NGO you are working with
Information on the community you are working with
- Politics of the community
- Culture of the community
- Education in the community
- Social injustice or inequality in the community
- Discussions on social justice and social responsibility
- Discussions of privilege, ability, and responsibility
- Discussion of expectations, goals, and fears
Other information that should be available to participants and the participants family include:
- Travel itinerary including form of travel, time of departure and arrival, and if applicable, flight numbers
- Agendas and information on where the participants will be staying and working
- Emergency contact information to contact the AB host organization
- Pre-departure vaccination requirements or recommendations. Center for Disease Control
- can provide this information (http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/destinationList.aspx).
Alternative Break trips can be expensive. Fundraising can lower the cost each participant must pay, as well as cover the invisible costs.
On Campus Fundraising:
Groups have the option of doing on campus fundraisers. To read the on campus fundraising policy see: http://www.juniata.edu/services/osa/handbook.html#fundraising. To plan an on campus fundraiser, you must complete the fundraising form and submit it to the Director of Student Activities. Once the fundraiser has been approved you can implement it on campus. Groups can also request funds from Student Government by completing an allocation request form and submitting it to the Executive Board Treasurer. For fundraising ideas see: http://alternativebreaks.org/Fundraising_Ideas.asp.
Off Campus Fundraising:
It is possible to have too many on campus fundraisers. When the on campus fundraisers are no longer successful, ideas for off campus events include:
- Letter writing campaigns to organizations, businesses, and family and friends in the area or from your hometown
- Car washes
- Donations or fundraising nights from restaurants and local bars Before soliciting local businesses or hosting off-Campus fundraisers you must get permission from the Office of Student Activities.
There are a variety of businesses, organizations, and private donors with grant opportunities. To find a grant that fits your program visit: http://www.grants.gov/applicants/find_grant_opportunities.jsp. Before applying for a grant, meet with Michael Keating, Director of Corporate and Foundation Support in the Development Office, and make sure your RSO can meet all the requirements of the grant.
Post-AB trip Wrap-Up:
Upon return from (and during) your AB trip, having an appropriate reflection period is necessary to help participants process the experience. For ideas of reflection activities see the Reflection Guide.
Continuing Education Efforts:
As part of the reflection process students should be encourage to continue their educational experience regarding the AB trip. Student participants can host a presentation about their experience including power point, slide show, or video. Student participants should also be encouraged to continue having discussions around important issues they learned while on their AB trip.
For a program planning checklist containing trip logistics, participant requirements, and necessary paperwork see: http://alternativebreaks.org/Program_Checklist.asp. Not all criteria on this checklist are the responsibility of the student groups. The AB host group or NGO will plan most of this information; however, it is the student organizers job to make sure that student participants have access to this information. For more assistance in planning an AB trip, please contact the Office of Student Activities.