Alternative Break Programs: From Isolated Enthusiasm to Best Practices: The Haiti Compact

Jill Piacitelli, Molly Barwick, Elizabeth Doerr, Melody Porter, Shoshanna Sumka


Alternative break programs, which are short-term service-learning
trips, immerse students in direct service and education, resulting in
the creation of active citizens who think and act critically around the
root causes of social issues. Over the last 20 years, domestic alternative
breaks have effectively created strong community partnerships
and fostered student development. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti,
universities around the United States were seeking opportunities to
offer “hands on” aid, and the need for best practices to avoid potential
pitfalls of international volunteerism became plainly apparent.
In response, a small group of alternative breaks professionals from five U.S. universities came together with Break Away (the national alternative breaks nonprofit organization), to form the Haiti Compact. The Compact developed best practices for international alternative breaks, allowing staff and students to overcome potential harm done to communities while contributing to student learning and engagement. This essay shares those practices and their application to work in Haiti.

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