by Ayala Maurice

This year’s Branch out trip to Cap Haitien was truly amazing. It’s so difficult to describe in words how much the experience impacted my view of the world and the role that the government and organizations play in it. We were greeted warmly by the teachers and students and taken in as a friend immediately. I did not expect to feel so comfortable with the teachers and despite not speaking Haitian Creole, I found we were able to communicate in so many other ways. The NGO that we worked with, Sonje Ayiti, is led by some phenomenal people. It really made me appreciate the work of grassroots organizations in developing and easing economic pressure within communities. The teachers who were employed by Sonje Ayiti had pride and passion for what they did each day and only wanted to do more for their students in advancing their learning. The sense of community that I felt surrounding the NGO and the school really solidified, for me, just how vital these organizations are for improving everyday life.

My trip related to my academic work because I am studying International Relations. Many of Haiti’s economic problems come from trade embargos put on the country by the US. The issue with this was that the embargo ended up benefitting the rich and deteriorating the state of the poor within the country. This example shows just how critical international intervention is, but also shows that countries like the US should take more time to understand the effects of their actions on the citizens. There would have been more public backlash if this happened to a country in Europe, but not many seem to know just how this type of poor discretion could affect the livelihoods of so many.

Our nightly reflections were a good way for us to discuss our ideas and concerns that we dealt with throughout the day. We were able to challenge each other’s opinions and push one another to think more deeply about our role and impact which I really appreciated. It allowed for us to connect over the work we were doing and really see the intentions of each person on the trip. All in all I found this experience to be one that I cannot wait to be a part of again. I learned so much about the school, their community, and their history in the context of their everyday life.