HELP Students ACTIVE Across Haiti

Creating a nationwide internship network

October 16, 2013

ACTIVE crop

Agronomist Michel Brochet speaks to students from the Green School Network in Gros Morne during a field trip organized with help from ACTIVE summer interns.

As part of HELP’s leadership curriculum, all students participate in a service project that addresses a community need. One such project that has been particularly successful is the brainchild of Anne-Martine Augustin (electrical engineering ’14). After attending a 2011 WISE Haiti Task Force conference highlighting 20 successful initiatives in education, Anne-Martine wondered how students like her could get more exposure to well run local organizations. She came up with the idea of placing university students in internships to provide them with valuable experience and to bring their skills and energy to these institutions across Haiti. Anne-Martine named her initiative ACTIVE (Action towards Initiatives & Volunteering in Education). “ACTIVE was founded on the belief that young people want to make a difference in Haiti and just need someone to help them focus and coordinate their service,” says Anne-Martine. “We also know that there are receptive hosts – people and organizations who need volunteers but don’t know where to find reliable assistance. So our objective is to help volunteers and hosts unite and mutually benefit from the experience. This way, students can be exposed to some of the strong organizations that already exist in Haiti, and they have the opportunity to work with, and be inspired by, the leaders of those organizations.”

The project got an important boost in August 2012 when Anne-Martine was invited to participate in a United Nations Youth Assembly in New York. Participants were assigned to groups and asked to develop proposals. Anne-Martine convinced her team to present a plan for furthering the concept of ACTIVE, focusing intern placement on a set of organizations recognized by WISE for their exemplary work in education in Haiti. “Because the WISE network includes institutions located across the country, working with them also enables ACTIVE to have a nationwide reach,” says Anne-Martine. ACTIVE was recognized by WISE as the best of the 12 projects presented at the Assembly.

Back in Haiti, Anne-Martine continued working with her leadership service project group throughout the 2012-2013 school year to put the concept into practice, preparing to place the first set of interns during the summer of 2013. They reached out to the WISE Haiti Task Force, housed at the Foundation for Knowledge & Liberty (FOKAL), for help in contacting potential partner organizations, but ended up getting even more assistance than they’d hoped for: WISE/FOKAL chose ACTIVE as one of three projects to receive funding. “ACTIVE’s work with WISE’s best-practices network in Haiti is an important element of the WISE Haiti Task Force Action Plan,” says FOKAL’s Education Advisor, David Bruchon. “Offering opportunities for students like Anne-Martine to apply the knowledge and skills they’ve gained to serve their communities is a great experience for them as future Haitian leaders.” WISE and FOKAL also encouraged Anne-Martine to apply for a fellowship with the Resolution Project, and she was named one of 75 Resolution Fellows for 2014. As a Fellow, Anne Martine will receive one-on-one mentoring, access to experts and pro-bono services, as well as $1,500 to help further support and expand the ACTIVE initiative starting in 2014.

This past summer, after months of preparation determining organizations’ staffing needs, developing job descriptions and application forms for prospective interns, and reaching out to their peer networks to find applicants, ACTIVE placed 10 summer interns with five organizations (Cote Plage Middle School in Carrefour, TipaTipa in Port-au-Prince, Fritz Lafontant Training Center in Mirebalais, Matenwa Learning Center on the island of La Gonave, and the Green School Network in Gros Morne). “The funding from WISE/FOKAL helped with the planning and recruitment phase, travel and food stipends for the volunteers, and a small completion bonus for fulfilling all requirements of the internship,” says Anne-Martine. Audalbert Norvilus, Coordinator of the Green School Network, said, “Our team was very happy to welcome two dedicated and dynamic ACTIVE interns. We congratulate ACTIVE on the great momentum they have built around volunteering. We encourage them to keep up their good work of instilling a sense of responsibility in young Haitians.”

HELP leadership classes resumed this month, and ACTIVE hopes to build on the successes of the summer by placing interns and working with several new organizations during winter vacation. ACTIVE is also incorporating as a non-profit in Haiti. “ACTIVE has built a well-organized project,” says HELP Leadership Program Manager Meaghan Balzer. “The service-learning opportunities benefit the volunteers, the organizations, and their wider communities. ACTIVE’s work connecting future professionals and leaders with local, responsible institutions will have long-lasting and positive results.”