Top photo (from left): Henrietta Koramoah ’20, Abbie Walsh ’19 and Katie Howe ’20 with some Haitian children. Bottom photo (from left): Milena Casamassima ’17 and Caitlin Hunt ’19 work on a project.
Alternative Spring Break Happens in Haiti
Although Spencer Moser, the director of MCLA’s Center for Service and Citizenship, takes a group of students on an Alternative Spring Break each year, this time was different; for the first time, the destination was Haiti.
There, along with The Haiti Plunge organization of Adams, Mass., the five MCLA students performed a number of services projects. This included building benches and some raised garden beds for a women’s cooperative in rural Haiti.
As part of the experience, the group visited various communities, including those in Cabaret, Port-Au-Prince, Wahoo, Tenwar, Desab and Brely, their home base, where they spent time with local schoolchildren, and even attended church on Sunday with the residents.
For Abbie Walsh ’19, an elementary education and interdisciplinary studies major from Boylston, Mass., the trip marked the first time she’d been out of country. “I really wanted to experience something new, learn about a different culture, and give back to the community,” she said.
“It was so interesting to see how similar the school is structured compared to our schools here in terms of the curriculum,” Walsh said. “Interacting with the kids was such a great experience. They speak Creole, so verbally communicating with them was very difficult, but that didn’t stop them from playing games with us, showing us their homes, and teaching each other words. … It was heartwarming to see how much of an impact our presence made to the kids and the whole community in general.
“This trip stood out to me as being an incredible opportunity to learn in a new environment and be exposed to new places, people, and challenges,” said Katie Howe ’20 of Malden, Mass. “It is important to discover and understand how people live, and to enjoy learning about new cultures” through immersion while lending service.
“Throughout our week we spent time each day working with local children, learning about the Haitian culture, and creating the basis for a sustainable and independent community,” Howe said. “Working with the local families and farmers was incredible, as we were able to build lasting relationships and provide support to achieve goals to better their day-to-day lives.”
Caitlyn Hunt ’19 of Fort Edward, N.Y., agreed. She said the best part of the trip was the opportunity to interact with the people of Haiti, and experience firsthand their culture, and how they live.
“There is something so challenging and so rewarding about throwing yourself out of your comfort zone into a place where you don't speak the language, are unfamiliar with cultural norms, and are away from your friends and family,” said Milena Casamassima ’17 of Mansfield, Mass.
“These trips really allow you to dig deeper within yourself and find the traits and characteristics that you possess that can be of help to others that transcend language, wealth or status,” Casamassima said. “They allow you to connect with others on a deeper level and with this type of service you are as much the recipient as you are the volunteer.”