Alternative Breaks

A group of LMU students on an Alternative Break trip.

The Alternative Breaks Program is run through Loyola Marymount University's Center for Service and Action. The Alternative Breaks (AB) Program is a member of Break Away, the National Alternative Breaks Organization. The AB Program received Honorable Mention for the national Alternative Breaks Program of the Year Award in 2010.

The Center for Service and Action sent out our first Alternative Breaks trips in 2003, and we've been growing ever since. To get a better idea about the history of our AB Program, check out our past AB trips.

Contact the Alternative Breaks Program

For more information on the AB program, please contact Jenni Mendez.

Mission of the Alternative Breaks Program

The mission of Loyola Marymount University's Alternative Breaks Program is to cultural exchange at the local, national and international level through interactive community-based learning education. Students critically explore social justice issues that challenge their self-awareness and inspire lifelong social action as active citizens in their communities.

Alternative Breaks Program Goals

Participants of an Alternative Break will:

  • Enliven the LMU Mission of forming people with and for others through engaging in mutually beneficial relationships and community building with our local, national, and international partners.
  • Name, critically analyze, and explore social justice issues through a systems-perspective approach and identify multiple methods of social change.
  • Develop as critical thinkers that will reflect and understand the root causes and structures that perpetuate injustice.
  • Challenge current worldviews and systems of oppression through immersion and intentional reflection in a new cultural context.
  • Take action for justice and create social change through local organizing and/or coordinating efforts with their respective community partner.
  • Understand the principles of anti-racism through a lens of intersectionality by demonstrating one's ability to apply these principles to the justice issue they are focusing on.

Values of Alternative Breaks

1. Simplicity

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.

~Hans Hofmann

Focusing on simple living allows us to reconnect with what is essential. Through simple living, participants can explore and question how their own lifestyles are connected to and interdependent with the lives of others.

Participants of AB experiences commit to a simple lifestyle. The commitment is more than an attempt to live without your cell phone or hair dryer for a week or two; it is a shift of focus. When away from home, we encourage you to spend your time centered less on technology, shopping and the consumption promoted by our U.S. culture so that you can be free to experience the value of simple pleasures, conversations, and your own creativity. By living simply, we can choose to be in solidarity with the people we spend time with. Embracing simplicity allows us to value relationships over things; to hear the voices of our community members, the voice of our own inner-self. The end result of simplicity is freedom.

2. Social Justice

Social Justice is being in right relationship with one another.

Social justice is about creating a society where everyone is in right relationship with one another because of the fair distribution of advantages, assets and benefits among all members of a society. The basis for social justice comes from the foundational principle that all human life is sacred and that we must recognize the dignity of every human being. Many people confuse social justice with charity. Charity is meeting the direct needs of someone (I.e. donating food), where as social justice is looking to directly address the root causes of the issue (I.e. asking the question “why are there so many people in our community without access to food?) 

Alternative breaks expose participants to the complexities of the systemic injustices faced by the disenfranchised in a way that is impossible to understand simply through statistics and stories. As you meet them and hear their stories, continue to challenge yourself with the question “why?” But this is really just the first step. This cornerstone value will continue to challenge you even after you return home and are left wondering how you can help promote justice in our world.  

Long term ways to strengthen your commitment to social justice are to educate yourself about the social issues facing the world today, organize your community around doing concrete initiatives to help rectify the problem, advocate for those who are suffering injustices by speaking out to your politicians and the public and living in solidarity with others.

3. Solidarity

"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." - Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s

Solidarity is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress you might feel when witnessing the direct effects of injustice that many people face. Solidarity includes compassion, but it is also a decision to take action: to form kinship and community. Solidarity takes place when a person or community not only sees a need and responds but commits to follow up with long-term action and sustained advocacy for social justice. Solidarity then is the firm and persevering determination to act in favor of the well-being of all, especially those who are most oppressed and marginalized.  

The idea of solidarity stems from the belief that everyone in this world is connected in one great community and thus we all have a common responsibility for everyone else. Solidarity includes a kind of mutuality that goes both ways in respect and accountability when the relationship grows. The end result of solidarity is living an authentic life.

4. Restorative Justice

“Restorative Justice is a philosophical approach that embraces the reparation of harm, healing of trauma, reconciliation of interpersonal conflict, reduction of social inequality, and reintegration of people who have been marginalized and outcast. RJ embraces community empowerment and participation, multi partial facilitation, active accountability, and social support. A central practice of restorative justice is a collaborative decision-making process that includes harmed parties, offenders, and others who are seeking to hold offenders accountable by having them: Accept and acknowledge responsibility for their offenses; to the best of their ability, repair the harm they caused to harmed parties and the community; and work to rebuild trust by showing understanding of the harm, addressing personal issues, and building positive social connections.” -David Karp 

Restorative justice is an important component of the Alternative Break program. This value is not only important for the way that participants should approach their group relationships, but also the way that participants should approach their engagement with partner communities. A restorative model encourages community building practices with our partner communities and reaffirms a commitment to mutuality.