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University of Toledo students heading to Haiti for spring break

By Lindsay Mahaney
On February 6, 2013

When 16 University of Toledo students leave for spring break, they’ll each take a carry-on with their own belongings — and two giant suitcases of donations for others.

A group of UT students participating in a class called “Learning through Service” will be leaving on a service trip to Haiti on March 2. During the trip, students will be aiding Haitian natives in various service projects.

The class started up three years ago in a living learning community by Sammy Spann, the assistant provost for the Center for International Studies and Programs, and Sara Clark, the center’s assistant director.

“The class really provides the students with an opportunity to explore who they are as a servant leader,” Clark said. “We talk a lot about what’s your path of service, how do you want to impact the world and what are the big goals that you want to change, the big social justice issues that you want to impact.”

“We worked with that group to try to empower them and see how much power we all have to change the world,” she said.

Andrew Kurtz, a junior communications and business marketing major, made the decision to join the class when Spann contacted the communications department about filming a video of the Haiti experience to present to President Lloyd Jacobs.

“It’s a good opportunity for every student to learn more about yourself,” Kurtz said. “I don’t think there’s enough classes at UT where you learn more about yourself. You learn more about topics and you find out if you’re interested in those topics.”

Jonavon Farris, a sophomore business marketing major, said this is the experience he’s been waiting for in college.

“It’s the experience to go internationally for the first time and to help other people besides yourself,” Farris said. “It sounded great. I couldn’t think of a reason not to.”

In Haiti, the service projects the class will take part in are entirely up to the students. The program is working with an organization called Hut Outreach, which has already started two schools and a youth center.

“We’ll be working there with the children,” Clark said. “What’s nice is they haven’t said ‘this is what you have to do’ when you get there.”

Kurtz said one idea the class came up with was to build a soccer field for the children.

“We have a lot of soccer players in the class,” Kurtz said. “Soccer is very popular in Haiti. So we’re trying to get soccer equipment like nets and balls, used cleats or used shin pads donated to be used.”

Education will also be a part of the service on the trip. Clark said there is a need to teach children about basic hygiene and burn care that the class will be taking part in.

“A lot of individuals cook over open flames so we need to talk to the kids about how to stay safe, what to do if they would get burned, those sort of things,” Clark said.

Farris said he was looking forward to the opportunity to serve others and experience the Haitian culture.

“My mom always told me ‘It’s nice to be nice,’” he said. “So whenever you can help somebody, you help somebody, whether you want to or not.”

Students are in charge of their own fundraising for the trip.

“This is totally student-lead fundraising,” Clark said. “They have been fantastic in coming up with their ideas.”

The next Haiti fundraiser, an all-you-can-eat taco bar, takes place Feb. 7 at El Camino Real from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dinner costs $10 per person, $7 for children under 10, and $2 for unlimited fountain drinks. An open bar will be available for people 21 and over.

In addition to fundraising, donations are also being accepted in the Center for International Studies and Programs office, Snyder Memorial Room 1000, and at the communications office in University Hall. All donations are welcome, including money, new or used clothing, medical supplies, school supplies, arts and crafts items and sports equipment.

“[The donations] would be the biggest gift that we could give some of the children we’re going to serve,” Clark said.

For more information on what to donate, contact the Center for International Studies and Programs office: 419-530-5268.

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