Students for Haiti Solidarity Travel to Make Change


Members of Students for Haiti Solidarty and students from SOPUDEP gather with members of Sakala, an afterschool program in one of the poorest parts of Haiti, for a photo after the honorary soccer game they play every year. The club, which was founded in 2010, travels to Haiti every year to give aid to the Haitian people through projects like constructing schools and delivering medical supplies. Photo courtesy Avery Paulick.

Haiti has faced many challenges in the past few years, with the largest being the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shook the country in 2010. This earthquake destroyed the country’s infrastructure, and the continued political interference from the U.S. only exacerbated the issue. To this day, the country is still struggling to recover, and its plight is what has inspired the work of the Students for Haiti Solidarity for the past 10 years.

“Haiti is our neighbor,” club advisor Seth Donnelly said. “It’s the poorest country in the hemisphere and I think we have a special responsibility, given the U.S. impact on Haiti, to change that relationship.”

This year, the club’s annual trip to Haiti took place over spring break. The members visited the country and along with other workers helped construct the Society of Providence United for the Economic Development of Petion-Ville (SOPUDEP), the Haitian sister school. Réa Dol, the director of SOPUDEP, hosts the club and helps as well. The main goal of the club since its initiation has been the construction of the school to meet the severe need for education in Haiti.

“Everyone kind of thinks of it as Haiti club goes to Haiti and that’s it,” club president senior Avery Paulick said. “That’s [part of] what we do, but [we have] such a special relationship with their school… I just love that aspect of Haiti, that we’re working with the same people year after year and seeing how our help has really helped them grow.”

This is likely to be the last trip focused directly on building the school since its construction is projected to be completed by April of next year. The completed school will have a large complex encompassing healthcare, adult education and K-12 education. There are currently around 15 finished classrooms and a 70,000 gallon water cistern. With this in mind, the club is looking toward the future of fundraising and tackling the needs of the school once it begins running as an institute.

“Our next goal, once the construction is finished, will probably be fundraising for food because a lot of the students at SOPUDEP don’t have food at home,” Avery said. “They get a hot meal at school [and also] get snacks because they don’t have meals at home. Also, teacher salaries [have] been a huge struggle. Teachers need to get paid, and there’s no money to pay them so those two things will probably be the main focus.”

In the tradition of the club, this year’s students stayed at Dol’s house, as they have for the past few years. This allows them to experience firsthand the joys of the Haitian people, despite the poverty and struggle for education that most of the population faces.

“There’s a lot of bonding with her family,” Donnelly said. “We’re not in a hotel, we’re with the family and we’re in this kind of communal bunk bed setting. We stay with Réa and we see how much love they have. [Their] joy and energy for struggle raises the bar for us and what we can do all the time… It transforms us, and it has transformed me.”

During this year’s trip, students helped with construction and meet with other organizations like the Fam SOPUDEP an Aksyon, the women’s micro-credit cooperative that focuses on equipping local women with the means to support their families and improve the local economy. The club also helps deliver medical supplies, along with a team of nurses in a mobile medical clinic, to those in need.

“We met with human right activists and people in the labor movement, so it was very eye-opening and educational politically,” Donnelly said. “We also engaged in recreational activity, like [playing] soccer, and we have had friendly competition — we’ve never won — but we have had friendly competition with Haitian youth… They’re very active trips.”

Donnelly believes that the spirit of the club lies in the continuity of its program and its active work in Haiti. Over the years, it has had a consistent presence on campus, maintained strong relationships with SOPUDEP and Dol, and expanded other grassroots movements in Haiti.

“I just think the work in Haiti is particularly eye-opening and we hope that all students would want to plug in” Donnelly said.