A VOLbreak is a trip where a group of college students (usually 10-12 per trip) engage in an immersive community service experience. VOLbreaks may occur during students’ fall, winter, weekend, or summer school breaks. Since 1993, UT students have been traveling locally, nationally and internationally, engaging in community service efforts that contribute to meaningful social change. VOLbreaks are also drug and alcohol-free experiences, with a heavy emphasis on group and individual reflection.
VOLbreak experiences can challenge students to critically think about and address serious social issues. After having a VOLbreak experience, participants often seek to continue their active citizenship on campus, in their own communities, and in partnership with other communities.
|7am||Wake-up/eat breakfast and pack lunch|
|8am||Depart for service|
|9am-noon||Serve at community non-profit site #1|
|1pm-5pm||Serve at community non-profit site #2|
|6pm-7:30pm||Trip to grocery store, then back to housing site|
|7:30pm-8:30pm||Dinner is cooked by a team of participants, some participants may shower now, dinner is eaten by the group and cleaned up by the ‘clean-up’ crew|
|8:30pm-9:30pm||Reflection (participated by all on trip)|
|9:30pm-?||Group will play games, continue to have conversations about the day’s service, etc.|
**In summary- the days are long, and full of strong direct service but make the trips so worthwhile!
Most lodging accommodations are either provided by the host site or determined by the break leaders. Past VOLbreaks have stayed in tents, a church, a cabin, or in the actual service organization center. Many times it’s in a sleeping bag on the floor, but sometimes there are air mattresses or beds as well.
Sometimes there are separate sleeping areas for students who identify as men and women, but not always. Sometimes it is a requirement.
If any sleeping scenario does not feel comfortable to you, be sure to ask your leaders for more details about accommodations we can make.
Most teams buy and prepare all of their meals. As part of the communal experience, we challenge teams to closely mirror SNAP accommodations by budgeting $1/person/day for breakfast, $2/person/day for lunch, and $3/person/day for dinner. It’s fun to meal prep and cook for the whole group creatively while learning more about some of our VOLbreak values. Some community partners and/or housing partners may provide meals as part of their role in the break.
Leaders will have information about food allergies and preferences so the team and/or partners can accommodate those.
No. VOLbreaks enforces a very strict drug and alcohol policy, even for students who are over the age of 21. Participants sign a waiver prior to departure agreeing to these terms and conditions. If participants are known to be using drugs or alcohol during the alternative break, they will be immediately dismissed from the break and must incur the costs of transportation on their own, in addition to facing potential disciplinary action from the university.
Why does the drug and alcohol policy exist?
VOLbreaks seeks to create a community among participants during their experience. We believe alcohol and other drugs interfere with the alternative break in the following ways: (1) Group dynamics: Not all members of the trip are 21, and it is illegal for students under 21 years of age to purchase or be in possession of alcoholic beverages. We aim to prevent feelings of isolation among students who are not able to legally engage in this behavior. (2) Respect for host communities: Certain breaks may serve populations with a personal connection to the issues of alcoholism or substance abuse. (3) Legal considerations: The use of illegal drugs places both the users and the community at legal risk. Given that all alternative breaks focus on serving the community and creating sustainable relationships, the use of alcohol and other drugs is inappropriate.
Prior to departure, groups will have 2-3 meetings throughout the semester that focus on their trip’s theme. These meetings will be an opportunity for team-building, as well as learning about the focus of the trip. Following the trip, groups will meet a minimum of one time for a reorientation event.
Pre- and post- trip meetings are required as participants will be provided policy and procedure information regarding the trip and activities so that they can be prepared for the experience. Information may include but not be limited to information on health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, societal, and religious conditions of the host location. If a student cannot attend one or more pre-trip meetings, they must arrange make-up meetings with the VBL to review material and information covered. Participants are advised to share this information with their parents/guardians so they can make informed decisions concerning preparation, participation, and behaviors while on the trip.
Each trip will travel together to the trip site and from the trip site. Due to risk management we are unable to allow anyone to travel separately except in case of emergency or dismissal from the trip.