King’s Team Visits Haiti to Learn about Economic Development
In March, a small team of King’s faculty and students traveled to Haiti to serve alongside Healing Haiti.
From March 5-11, 2018, a small team of King’s faculty and students traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to serve alongside an in-country organization called Healing Haiti. The trip was a pilot project featuring a few students, with the goal of determining if this is a venture King’s will pursue more broadly in the future. The trip was an excellent experience, and the Business department hopes to develop it as a 3-credit course to be offered in the future.
Dr. Kimberly Reeve led the trip, and took two King’s business students, Olivia Abboud and Laura Paradis. The trip is an excellent fit for business students in particular, Dr. Reeve explains. She says that King’s students with an interest in economics or international affairs often confront the question: “How do you ‘fix’ a country that has limited infrastructure, a long history of corruption, and extreme poverty?” Haiti is in exactly that situation. “Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, despite the investment of billions of dollars of international relief programs.” The decades-long interventions of dozens of groups have focused on the “felt needs of the population,” she explains, which include providing healthcare and orphanages. While noble goals, these interventions alone are not sufficient for a country to pull itself out of poverty.
The organization King’s partnered with, Healing Haiti, takes a slightly different approach. “Healing Haiti focuses on economic development and job creation as a long-term solution to many of Haiti’s challenges.” Healing Haiti runs Grace Village, which includes a school, family homes for children, a healthcare facility, and a bakery and restaurant. The team served at each of these locations, as well as other areas around the city, including Cite Soleil, one of the biggest slums in the northern hemisphere. This partnership allowed the King’s team to tour multiple job creation sites as well as visit and serve at sites offering immediate relief, like orphanages and hospitals. The team met with Haitians who are active in pursuing economic development for their country, and had the opportunity to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing Haiti with the people on the cutting edge of that work.
For Olivia Abboud (BUS ’19), the trip was a chance to do something that has been on her heart since high school: “learn about supporting developing countries through job creation and truly getting to know the locals, finding out their actual needs, not just relying on what we hear in the media.” She particularly cherished the opportunity to interact with pre-teen and teenage girls at one of the orphanages the team visited, hearing about their future goals and their plans for working towards those goals. “Their brightness and joy made it hard to leave!” she said.
Laura Paradis (BUS ’19) decided to go on the trip after hearing about it in Dr. Reeve’s class Decision Process and Negotiation. “I had previously done a large project about Haiti and its history, so I did not want to miss out on an opportunity to experience and see what I had researched.” She greatly respected Healing Haiti’s mission and work, and recognized that the trip with King’s was a unique opportunity.
Both women expressed that they plan to return to Haiti. Olivia says, “I think it is hard to truly understand the needs of a country until you get a chance to go there yourself.” For her, the trip underscored the importance of spending time within a community and seeking to learn from others before launching into economic development work. “I have always wanted to form a business that gives back in the right way,” she says. After spending time in schools and orphanages, she was struck by the importance of education. “Seeing how much of a life-changing asset an education can be, I came home motivated to find a way to aid in the growth of the education system.”
For Laura, the trip gave her “an overwhelming sense of appreciation for all I have.” She looks forward to pursuing career opportunities with organizations that give back in a meaningful way. “The trip helped me see work and school as an opportunity I should be grateful for, rather than a task I have to get done.” She hopes to return to Haiti this summer.
Dr. Reeve has visited other developing countries, but this was her first trip to Haiti. “Having a chance to see a developing country through the eyes of my students was a great experience,” she says. It helped her more fully appreciate the experience.
Every member of the team was deeply impressed by the spirit of joy, hope, and community they witnessed in the Haitians they encountered. Laura says, “I saw God working everywhere during this trip. There is something about the spirit of the people we met that is so abundant.” She noticed that the people she met radiated faith in God, “and it was stronger faith they sought.” Olivia recalls that, while serving some elderly Haitians, she asked how she could pray with and for them. “Despite the physical challenges they may have had, a re-occurring prayer request was to thank God for everything they have.”
The trip to Haiti, the first of its kind, may serve in the future as an “international experience” opportunity for the relatively new International Business minor, and Dr. Reeve hopes to continue leading groups of students on this unique experience.