HELP’s Student Ambassadors
By Daphnée Charles (agro-economics, class of 2012) & Theodule Jean-Baptiste (medicine, class of 2013)
August 2, 2012
This past spring, Theo and I were selected to visit several Lutheran congregations in the U.S. that contribute to HELP through the Haitian Timoun Foundation (HTF). From March 2-19, we toured Atlanta, GA; Columbus, OH; Omaha, NE; Denver, CO; San Francisco, CA; and Orlando, FL.
Everywhere we went, people were very happy and impressed to hear our stories and how we managed to succeed in our education. For the kids we met, this helped them realize how lucky and fortunate they are to be in a country with so many educational opportunities. At Coronado Elementary School in Denver, we saw fifth-graders’ faces in tears when we explained how we managed to buy books only by skipping lunch, or hand-copied from classmates’ textbooks to study, or even left family when we were six years old to go to school far from home. Our stories kept them quiet and very attentive, as you can see in the picture above (Daphnée’s favorite photo from the trip).
For the adults, we were living examples of the positive impacts of their generosity through HTF. Everyone agreed that the HTF–HELP partnership is an example of a very effective and long-term commitment that turns lives around. From our perspective, we were astonished to see how people in America were so devoted to issues faced by Haitians. The people we met were constantly trying to figure out ways to raise awareness and stimulate others to be generous to Haiti. We were especially impressed by the pastors’ engagement with HELP and the Haitian cause. They devoted their time to reach out to people, and the willingness and commitment they showed were like they were taking action for an American cause. Such behavior encourages young Haitians like us to devote ourselves even more to the cause of our own country.
It was also interesting for us to live among some of HELP’s donors, and to see how it can be very difficult for them to find the money that we might sometimes take for granted in Haiti. It was also a meaningful experience to stay with families and experience the differences between a typical American family and a typical Haitian family. Besides the visits to the churches, universities, and schools and the talks about the HELP–HTF relationship, we enjoyed some free time going out shopping, bowling, and talking with some terrific leaders such as the mayor of Livermore, CA, and members of the City Council in Orlando, FL.
Sometimes we felt like we are not only HELP representatives, but also ambassadors for Haiti since we often had to switch from talking about HELP to discussing and answering questions about political, economic, and environmental issues facing Haiti. We wish that everyone in the HELP community (both employees and students) could have this opportunity; because we are so used to the HELP administration and the students, we are not very aware of our donors’ world. But this awareness enlarged our understanding of the importance of integration between donors, students, and HELP’s administration. This also increased understanding of the need to efficiently use every dime in the program.
We really thank HELP for choosing us as its ambassadors. It was a very enriching experience for us. We hope this trip will bring more to the program by having more people from abroad involved in HELP’s mission, which, in turn, will be a tremendous boost for Haiti.