SOURCE: MassLive By: Jeanette DeForge
CHICOPEE – During school vacation a group of eight students and three adults from Hampden Charter School of Science brought toys, candy, books and paper to six orphanages in Haiti and left with one collective goal.
They want to do more.
“I have the call of service and helping out the orphans,” said Alex White, of Springfield, a senior who will be graduating in June. “It was my first time there but it won’t be my last.”
The trip also helped confirm White’s career plans. He said he has wanted to study medicine and is now sure he wants to be a doctor and work in the public health field.
The National Honor Society at the schoolorganized the trip, which was to focus on helping people. The original plan was to visit Kenya but with the Ebola epidemic the students switched direction and decided on a trip to Haiti instead, said Sener Dere, a guidance counselor and the advisor of the National Honor Society.
“We went to orphanages and we gave them food and school supplies and toys and we played with them,” said Aviana Emery, a tenth-grader from Springfield.
The trip took months to organize since the students wanted to collect suppliesand raise money as well as making travel arrangements. They arrived with soccer balls, candy, and a wide variety of school supplies, but after the first visit to an orphanage they learned from the directors what they really needed was food. They used money raised and went shopping for basic supplies, said Courtney Beauregard, the school nurse who joined the group.
Dere said it is a balancing act for the orphanages. While directors would like to educate students they also need basic necessities including food.
The trip was a shock for the students when they realized how little the children had.
“It was eye opening seeing all the privileges I have here and they were so happy to get a soccer ball. It made me appreciate what I have here,” Zachary Rinvil, a senior from Chicopee said.
Some of the conversations they had with older students were especially interesting. Fatiha Muhammad said she talked to one girl who was especially grateful for the school supplies the students donated.
Families have to pay tuition for children to go to school so orphans do not have the opportunity to get an education.
“Sometimes you get up and you don’t want to go to school,” she said. “It was painful because she wishes she could go to school because she loves learning.”
Muhammad said she was excited the students decided to head to Haiti as an alternative since her mother grew up there.
In fact her mother accompanied the students as a chaperone and helped translate. She also helped the students find their way around and showed them some of the sites on the island.
The school supplies were also important because they are expensive to purchase in Haiti. Students plan to continue quarterly drives to collect more supplies to continue to send to the orphanages, Dere said.
One of the most memorable visits was meeting a young boy who had suffered burns, said Jennamarie Rinvil, a ninth-grader, who is the sister of Zachary.
The siblings also have family from Haiti. While they have been there before, they were young children and remember little about the country.
“I’ve seen pictures but it is different from being there,” Jennamarie said.
After meeting the child Beauregard said the group took another shopping trip to treat the boy’s wound and to show adults how to continue doing so.
“They have no access to health care from the orphanage,” she said.
The other students who attended were Tajour Cohen-Henry, a senior from Springfield; Kalimah Muhammad, a junior from Springfield and Paris Snowden, a sophomore from West Springfield.