A Week With Winter Break Projects

30 Students Live and Learn in Providence
by Erin West and Joshua Herman
March 2, 2015

This January, a group of 30 students hunkered down in Beneficent Church downtown to spend a week learning about social justice issues in Providence for the Winter Break Projects. Students split into five groups: Homelessness, Environmental Justice, Health Care, Refugee Resettlement, and Education. During the days, they scattered all over Providence to visit people and organizations involved in these subject areas. At night, they came back together to cook dinner together, hear from members of the community (including the mayor!), and share their experiences.

Winter Break Projects is unique in its foundational philosophy that before we can hope to work in and contribute to our community, we must fully understand it. Students found this approach and the experience as a whole incredibly meaningful. They describe its impact best in their own words:

  • “Action after education is the only path to meaningful, sustainable change, and Winter Break Projects is a first step in that direction.”
  • “[WBP] reminds us that with living here comes a responsibility to this place and to those people. And it helps us develop the most important tool we can ever have to help us fulfill that responsibility successfully – a more nuanced sense of cultural social humility.”
  • “Through [the] stories [of those we met], through their experiences and triumphs and challenges, we can begin to lay the foundation not only for a lasting partnership in social change, but also for a lasting process of learning that will follow us through the rest of our lives.”

For many students involved in Winter Break Projects, our week in January will not only be a defining experience of the rest of their time here at Brown, but will direct their life course far into the future.