There are many events that can change the course of your life: a new friendship, furthering your education, the birth of a child, loss of a loved one, a chance meeting, an unexpected opportunity…
One such unexpected opportunity was presented to me during the spring semester of 2013. I was fortunate to lead the Learning Through Service course to Haiti for the first time. Our class was comprised of 16 students who came from various walks of life and were in involved in a diverse list of student organizations. All of the students were required to apply for admittance into the course and selected candidates were committed to joining in a ten day spring break service experience to Les Cayes, Haiti.
Our students worked hard throughout the semester to prepare to go overseas. They welcomed various community members onto our campus to learn more about Haiti and Haitian culture through language and cultural lessons from Haitian natives. In addition to regular course assignments, the students planned several fundraisers including on-campus bake sales and an El Camino dinner and raffle event raising over $ 2,300! The students choose to split $1,700 between one another to help them defray their travel expenses. The remaining $600 was used to purchase supplies for Haitians including mosquito nets, food, and other basic needs.
On the way to the airport our students were complaining about exams and school stress; many students were excited and nervous for their first airplane rides and first-time traveling outside the USA. Witnessing the immense growth that took place over the ten day service experience is something I will never forget. The trip was well-documented by the class and you can hear straight from them how the experience went HERE.
It is my hope that all Rockets will graduate from The University of Toledo with a life-changing experiential learning opportunity under their belts, in their hearts, and on their resumes. Without being open to exposing themselves to a new culture, or challenging themselves to step out of their comfort zones, our Learning Through Service students (pictured above) would be completely different people.
Upon return to campus our students have been able to reach out and educate other students and UT professionals about the inspiration and devastation they witnessed in Haiti. If you would like to become a part of their new student organization Toledo CAN (Change a Need) please visit their Facebook page HERE. Additionally, the students have created a partner group of CAN called Save the Feet, a new and used shoe collection program dedicated to providing the less fortunate with footwear. We welcome students and staff to become involved in future classes or with either of these service-based student organizations.