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Choosing a Good Service Abroad: Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

 Written by    June 22, 2017

Young girls from the Santos, Haiti, community gathering for English class

This week, I returned from my fourth service trip in Haiti since 2014, and I am excited to say that Haiti has improved so much since the previous time I was there exactly one year ago. You can read about that adventure here: Haiti: I save but I’m not a savior and Lè ou an Ayiti, wap konpran. Each time I travel to this beautiful and exotic country, I am truly amazed by the kindness and generosity of the people that I get to work with as well as the intensity of the culture that surrounds me each day. Although we spend lots of time with kids and students in the community, we also put in a lot of hard work, not only while we are down there but also year round from America. We have one overarching goal in mind: Sustainability. All successful, worthwhile, and lasting service trips are focused on sustainability. Read on to find out how my team makes an impact and what you should be looking for when choosing a service trip abroad.

Start a program where participants can make money. The best way we did this was by bringing down lots of seed for various fruits and vegetables from the area. We taught many members of the community how to plant the seeds and how to tend to them. We also discussed the right time to harvest their crop based on their seasons and how to sell them at various markets or on the streets. Many were motivated by the earning potential which brought many members of the community forward. This opportunity also helps the individual families that participate by letting them have copious amounts of food for their family to eat if they can’t afford other things at any point in time. The sustainability portion is demonstrated in these ways but also in the fact that Haitian families can use some of their earnings to buy more seeds to plant again once they have harvested their crop.

Have something that can be completely run by people in the country. Another program that we started around three years ago was a community center in the middle of Santos, Haiti. The leaders of Vision Hope for Haiti, the organization I work with every year, wanted to start multiple classes for the community to take including English, Spanish, sewing and computer classes. English and Spanish classes are given to a wide variety of interested community members from age 15 to 60. By learning a new language, members have a better chance of getting into schools or getting jobs.  This was easily one of my favorite things to do as many of the students were eager to work on their new language with a native speaker. They came to me with lists of vocab words that they wanted help understanding or to be used in a sentence. It was beyond cool to have so many people who were so excited to learn and take what I had to offer. The sewing classes make cloth bags that they sell for a profit and the computer classes design advertisements and business cards for businesses that are run by people in the community. All aspects of the community center contribute to the overall well-being of the community and promote sustainability by it being completely Haitian run.

Build a future for the kids… but don’t build it. When we first helped start Vision Hope for Haiti over three years ago, the Haitians’ main goal was to have a school that the children could attend for very little to no cost. There is no such thing as public schooling in Haiti and therefore every school has annual fees that could cost anywhere from $50 to $800. Even the lowest end school can be out of reach for some of the families in the Santos community. Just this year, we were able to purchase land for the school to be built on. It is important to note though that this purchase would be the biggest part that we would play in this process. None of us have any experience building anything let alone the fact that this building would have to survive many years and earthquakes. We are planning to help pay for carpenters, builders, and landscapers to do the job for us. This way the Haitian economy is being positively affected while we all know that the school will last a long time. My heart is warmed knowing that it will help many children in the years to come.

Service trips to Haiti have completely changed my life and will continue to impact me down the road. Ohio State offers many Buck-I-SERV trips — both within the United States and abroad — for you to get involved in volunteering while being a part of the Ohio State family. Trips happen all the time including over spring break, winter break, and summer break and can last only a week or a few weeks! These are some of the best opportunities to take advantage of while in college. I hope you choose to attend one!

Activism, Author, International, Personal, Travel, Why Ohio State?

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