Winter Service Trips

Magnolia Project Summer Internship

Alternative Breaks is offering winter service trips to New Orleans, Louisiana, the Greater Bay Area, and Los Angeles, California for January 2016. Led by students, the program consists of a DECal during the fall semester and a 10- to 14-day service trip in early January.

2015-2016 marks the tenth year of the commitment the UC Berkeley Public Service Center holds in working in solidarity with Gulf Coast Communities; 2014 was the inaugural year for a winter trip to Los Angeles centered upon the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA 2010); and 2015 marked the inaugural year for the winter Food & Justice Storytelling winter trip.  All trips are also offered over spring break. 

Alternative Breaks Winter Trips seeks dedicated student volunteers who have the courage to step outside of their comfort zones and challenge their own assumptions about social inequities. Alternative Breaks holds long-term relationships with many of the community organizations that will be visited. The winter trip opportunities offer the chance to deeply engage with the community and strengthen existing partnerships. This is an opportunity for both experienced student volunteers and those beginning to do justice work.

Reach us at, contact Rajelin Escondo, or call (510) 643-0303 with any questions or comments.  

Applications will open in August.

To receive email reminders about future info sessions and application deadlines please email us.

Program Information
Program Dates: January 2-14, 2017 
Time Commitment: 2 weeks in Winter 2017 PLUS Fall DECal, Wednesdays 6-8pm
Eligibility: Current Cal Students and Alumni
Cost: $375 (Subject to Change)
Application Deadline: September 11, 2016 at 11:59pm

Trip Details

Anyone is welcome to sign up for the trip. As part of our objective to be inclusive to those of all backgrounds, we will be subsidizing trip costs and supporting fundraising efforts. The final per person cost for the trip includes transportation, lodging, and food. Please talk to us if you need any financial assistance.

The purpose of these trips is to participate alongside community members in rebuilding and shaping their communities.


All participants will be expected to attend the mandatory DeCal class for their trip during the fall semester. DeCals are 6-8pm on Wednesdays, starting in September. The purpose of the DeCal is to give participants a greater understanding of the geography, history, and socioeconomic issues of the trip to make it an even better experience. The DeCal is also an opportunity for participants and break leaders to get to know each other and prepare for two weeks of service! 

Magnolia ProjectMagnolia Project

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Magnolia Project was created in 2006 in collaboration with the UC Berkeley Public Service Center. We partner with community based organizations to explore social issues through meaningful service, education, and reflection during academic breaks. The majority of the trip takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana, with a few days spent in Jackson, Mississippi. The program includes a weekly two-unit DeCal on Wednesday nights from 6-8pm during the fall semester, where students will study the history of New Orleans and modern social justice issues the city is grappling with and a two-week service trip from January 2 to January 16.

New Orleans has a unique rich history which has contributed significantly to the civil rights movement and many other important social movements. Magnolia Project serves to preserve the unique cultural legacy of New Orleans from social hazards that were further magnified through Hurricane Katrina. While on the trip, participants will have the opportunity to work with a diverse range of community partners in various New Orleans neighborhoods. These grassroots organizations support their communities in multiple ways, focusing on issues ranging from criminal justice, to education, to environmental concerns.

Magnolia Project also gives students the opportunity to think critically about important intersecting themes, all while exploring their social justice drives and developing their understanding of the potential power of community organizing. Many students find that what they learn through the program leads them to become more involved in social justice work and influences choices they make in other aspects of their lives.

We are looking for students of diverse backgrounds, interests, and levels of knowledge about New Orleans; people of non-social justice majors are encouraged as well, ranging anywhere from Engineering, CNR, and Business, to literature, art, and film!

Urban Pathways Project

Health is an important basic aspect of everyday life. According a 2011 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the US spends more on healthcare than any other nation, an astonishing $2.6 trillion annually. But US health indicators are among the worst of high-income countries. Are you wondering why?

Together, we will be exploring the US healthcare system in Los Angeles, its ongoing evolution with recent reform (PPACA), its manifestation in the urban community, and its intimate experience for individuals. We will delve into the social determinants of health and the systemic inequalities that plague urban communities. We will focus on a few populations that have fallen through the cracks and we will look at the role of free clinics and public hospitals in providing healthcare to those without access to sufficient quality healthcare or any health care at all.

During our weeklong service-learning trip, we will learn about and aid current efforts to strike down the cycle of poverty, homelessness, and injustice through programs aimed at social reform and empowerment. Ultimately, we want to recognize our own privileges and resources and how we can use them to create positive change.  


Food Justice: Unwrap the Food System and Take a Bite out of Justice

“More than one-third of US adults are obese.”
“Hunger in America exists for over 50 million people”
“1 in 7 US Households are food-insecure”

Facts like these are shared on a daily basis, but what do they really mean and how does this relate to the ever-changing food industry in the United States?  In a nation known for an abundant food supply, how are there people struggling to find their next meal?  In a nation struggling with food insecurity and hunger, how is obesity continuing to grow? 

Join us on a journey in the Greater Bay Area to unwrap the food system and understand the impact of the food movement in the U.S. as we dig for answers.  Through readings, guest lectures, and reflection, we will explore the history of agriculture and how politics turned simple farming into an industry, the paradox of the prominence of nutrition-related diseases in food-insecure homes, and how all of this impacts humanity.  During our weeklong service-learning trip, we will dive into the hearts of communities known as food deserts, which lack access to affordable, nutritious foods as a result of various social issues, including socioeconomic level.  We will explore how food deserts are created and how this relates to health disparities amongst differing social groups.  To further feed our minds, we will focus on the various people in the food system from CEO’s of major corporations to farm works to consumers.
We know you’re hungry for answers so join us as we unwrap the food system and take a bite out of justice!

The Magnolia Project  and all winter trips are generously supported by the Office of the Vice-Chancellor, LEAD Center, ASUC, and alumni, staff and faculty donors.


Trip Participants  |   Break Leaders   

Community Partners  |  Other Ways to Get Involved


Trip Participants

Student-led trips offered by Alternative Breaks (including Magnolia Project) teach participants the complexities of social issues by allowing students to live, serve, and engage in communities directly impacted by injustices addressed in pre-trip DeCal courses led by student facilitators.
We aim to introduce students to specific social justice issues in different communities, empower students to engage in impactful direct service, and create strong, lasting relationships between peers in a challenging and fun team environment.
Each break focuses on a specific topic such as immigration, environmental justice, public health, or poverty. Participants return to Berkeley with clearer perspectives of themselves, their roles as agents of social change, and the ways they can make the most positive impact on their own communities.
Program commitments for participants:
  • Attend a 2-unit fall DECal course (Wednesdays 6-8 pm, in fall for winter trips, spring for spring trips)
  • Participate in a service-learning trip during the academic winter break (January 2-16 2016) or spring break (March 19-25, 2016)
  • Fundraise $150 through various fundraising activities to keep costs low for everyone and get the word out about key issues facing our communities
  • Pay a $375 fee for winter trips and $200 for spring trips. (These fees cover housing, transportation, and food for the entire trip. An initial non-refundable deposit of $50 will be due at the first All Community Meeting. All trip fees are non-refundable). 
  • Three $50 Participant Stipends per trip are available for those who have demonstrated need.


Break Leaders

Interested in Leading an Alternative Break on of our 10 trip locations?

Applications to become an Alternative Breaks Leader in the 2016-2017 open in March 2016.

As an Alternative Breaks Leader, you will have the opportunity to develop:

  • leadership skills
  • project planning skills
  • teaching and group facilitation skills
  • marketing and publicity strategies
  • program budgeting and fundraising skills

As a Break Leader, you will connect and partner with organizations that engage in a particular social justice issue. You will also be able to influence and inspire other students towards meaningful service through your work.


For Community Partners

Alternative Breaks seeks to partner with organizations that promote social justice within their communities by sending service groups for one-week or two-week projects during Cal students' academic Spring (March 19-25, 2016) and Winter breaks (January 2-16, 2016).

We emphasize sustainability by making a commitment to return year after year to our host communities, including:

  • Greater Bay Area, CA  
    Food For Thought: Food Justice and Sustainability
  • Bay Area, CA
    Environmental Justice: Examining Health, Building Community, Demanding Equity
  • Bay Area and Sacramento, CA
    Give Me Shelter: An Exploration of Homelessness and Poverty
  • Central Valley, CA   
    Holistic Harvest: Rural Communities in the Central Valley
  • Campo Kumeyaay, CA
    Voices of the Unheard: The Struggle for Equality and Rights in Indian Country
  • Los Angeles, CA (Urban Pathways Project)  
    Premium Health, High Premium: The Issues with U.S. Health Care
  • San Diego, CA & Tijuana, Mexico
    San Diego/Tijuana: Too Many Walls, Not Enough Bridges
  • New Orleans, LA (Magnolia Project)   
    NOLA: Hidden, Revealed, Forgotten
  • Phoenix and Tucson, AZ
    We Are All Arizona: Confronting the Attacks on Difference
  • Southern and Central Oregon
    Where the Wild Things Are: Rethinking Social Justice to Include Our Furry Friends

If you are a community-based organization providing services to or advocating for justice for the people in these communities, please contact Community Partnerships Director at



Other Ways to Get Involved

Alternative Breaks is committed to offering its program to all students, regardless of their financial situations. All of our trips are subsidized by fundraisers and grants, with trip fees at only $200 and fundraising at $150 for an entire week of transportation, lodging, and food. If you would like to help Alternative Breaks provide more opportunities to its students, you can donate to us at the Give to Cal website. All gifts are tax-deductible. 

If you are a Cal alumnus living in one of the communities we serve and are interested in hosting dinner or speaking with one of our trips during spring break, please contact Community Partnerships Student Director  at



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