Love the world, start with Haiti

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: WIKIPEDIA
Fanshawe students who sign up for the alternative spring break in Haiti in February will get to visit a Haitian elementary school.

When you start to think about where you want to go for spring break, you might want to ask yourself, “What else is there?”

Next February, Lawrence Kinlin School of Business professor Victoria Digby will be bringing a small group of students to Haiti for what she calls an “alternative spring break.”

Alternative spring breaks are something she became aware of thanks to Western University. “My kids go to Western and they're always aware of what's going on. They have had alternative spring breaks there for many years,” she said.

“One of my kids actually went on an alternative spring break and that's how I learned about it.”

Digby herself went to Haiti with a small group recently. “It rocked my world,” she said. “I've seen poverty ... I've seen slums, but Haiti will take you to a whole different level.”

Six years ago, Digby took a group of students to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the intention of the trip was to help the city rebuild.

“This is a different trip,” she said. “This trip is more about education and building awareness. We're trying to awaken the spirit of caring in students.”

“It [will] hit them the minute they walk off the airplane. They will wake up because they have to wake up.”

She said the students will not be going to Haiti to help rebuild, however. “Our main focus is to expose students to the potential of Haiti and to show them what is happening and how [Haitians] are taking ownership of their own development.”

Service trips aren't completely off the table, but that's not Digby's main focus — yet. “That's not to say future ones won't be more service-driven. [But] this is still a country that's coming out of the deep,” she said. “Frankly I wouldn't want students to be working and cleaning and building.”

During the trip, students will be able to observe locals and interact with the youth.

The group will start at Port-au- Prince, the capital of Haiti, then travel to rural communities. “The students can [see] a contrast between those individuals who live in the cities...and look at the people farming in the mountains.”

Digby said the group will also take a three-hour hike to visit an elementary school. “Our students are going to meet the youth ... That's the kind of hands-on stuff that the students are going to experience.”

“You come back here and you tell people about your journey.” This could be the first trip of many, and Digby's hope for students is that they experience something “pretty cool.”

“I'm hoping the students will come back and share their story and get others to care, and get others to [wake up].”

Digby is looking for a group of 12 students for the first year to “see how it goes.”

The first information session will be held September 29 in SC2016 from 12 to 2 p.m.