Group of Lambton College students return from serving in Haiti

International field study was third group to take part through Social Justice course

Carly Bourque and some of her new friends in Haiti.

A group of 15 Lambton College students are once again eager to share their stories with the Sarnia-Lambton community following a recent International field study that took them to Haiti. This is the third group to travel to Haiti as part of a social justice course offered at the College that focuses on international community development and capacity building.

Taught by Ruth Geurts, Social Service Worker Faculty at Lambton College, and a lifelong social justice advocate, the General Education course, titled International Community Development, was designed to challenge students to reach beyond their comfort zone and experiences. Students enrolled in this course learn about international development and the foundational messages of working with those outside of North America.

Following completion of the course, Geurts organizes the Haitian field study for interested students.  During their time in Haiti, the student group applies their learning and immerse themselves in Haitian culture.

Carly Bourque, a first year Personal Support Worker student, had already been to Haiti once before and said she jumped at the opportunity to visit the country again. She explains that going to Haiti is like stepping into another world.

During their most recent trip, the group stayed in Port au Prince, and spent time touring agricultural cooperatives and reforestation projects in Zoranger and Font Batis. They also visited an elementary school in St. Marc where they taught two dental hygiene sessions and donated over 200 toothbrushes and a health clinic where they donated over $5000 worth of medications to the nursing staff.

Other highlights of the journey included spending time at the Sisters of Charity Malnutrition Center, as well as a Youth Program for children living on the streets and a restavèk for survivors of human trafficking.

Participants also got to experience the beauty of the Haitian landscape including the famous healing of Saut-d’Eau falls and climbing the mountain to Gilbert.

In a journal entry following the trip, third year Child & Youth Worker student Amber Kinsman wrote that the trip to Haiti changed her life in ways she never would have imagined. She said the trip presented her with new challenges and gave her a newfound confidence that didn’t exist prior to participating in the field study.

“This is a country filled with beautiful people and beautiful sights and it should be on everyone’s bucket list to visit,” writes Kinsman. “If you find yourself low on energy or becoming bored with life I recommend visiting Haiti because it will make you feel alive. This is the perfect place if you are looking to get lost and become someone new. I know that Haiti has changed me for the better and I can’t wait to go back and visit the country that brought my soul back to life.”

Carly Bourque, a first year Personal Support Worker student, had already been to Haiti once before and said she jumped at the opportunity to visit the country again. She explains that going to Haiti is like stepping into another world.

“Everyone greets you. They all smile at you and the country itself is so beautiful, it takes your breath away,” she writes of her visit.

Bourque says that some people have a hard time understanding that this wasn’t a mission trip. In fact, the goal of the field study was to focus on capacity building, listening and learning from the Haitian people, recognizing their wants and needs.

“So many people seemed to be shocked or even disappointed when I would tell them that I was going on an awareness trip,” explains Bourque. “I was going to visit their country and learn about Haitians and their country and their culture.”

The trip was arranged in partnership with Rayjon Sarnia, a local organization dedicated to fostering improvements for the Haitian quality of life. Students were able to pay for a portion of their trip through fundraising efforts on campus.

The group also acquired various artisan works from their trip that will be offered for sale during Sarnia’s annual Community Art Walk, which takes place June 4 and 5 and again in November during the annual Global Citizenship Summit held at the Lambton College Event Centre. In addition to helping offset travel costs for students travelling to Haiti, proceeds from these sales will also aid other Haitian projects including host partner, the Foundation for International Development Assistance (FIDA), an organization that provides agricultural cooperatives and adult literacy to the people of Haiti.

A second group of nine Bachelor of Science – Nursing students and one Personal Support Worker student also left for Haiti on Wednesday, April 27, joining Geurts, another faculty member, and a large group of medical professionals on a clinical field study to Cap Hatien.

Both the International Community Development course and its accompanying field study will be offered again in September 2016.

For more information on the International Community Development course and other offerings through the School of Community Services & Liberal Studies, please visit lambtoncollege.ca.

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