Volunteer program in Haiti in the works

Sarah Minkewicz, Associate News Editor

SUNY Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner hopes to develop a service-learning course at the college that would allow students to volunteer in Haiti in the spring.

The service-learning course, which would take place during Alternative Spring Break, has proven successful in the past at SUNY Geneseo, where Conway-Turner served as provost and vice president of academic affairs from 2004 to 2009.

Conway-Turner said she hopes to bring this program to Buffalo State and looks forward to getting students involved in the volunteer work.

“I have taken students myself for the last three years during spring break,” Conway-Turner said. “I would like to find students at Buffalo State that would be interested in doing service-learning in Haiti, and develop a group that could become committed to doing that.”

Students would stay in northern Haiti, in a community called Borgne, where they would focus on healthcare, education and sanitation within the community.

This service-learning course will work closely with the organization HOPE, which aims to educate health professionals and community health workers, strengthen health systems and improve the health of women and children.

Conway-Turner said that she has been involved with the program in Haiti for almost a decade and right now the HOPE organization is working on a book drive to develop the first ever library in Borgne.

“We’ve secured some money from a donor to renovate a building,” Conway-Turner said. “So we have a physical space and now we’re working to get some donations of books, in French, that we can have in the Library and we hope to be able to open the Library this year.”

Conway-Turner said that the goal is to collect 2,000 books and currently they have around 500.

“We have a ways to go,” she said. “I’m hoping that students at Buffalo State will be interested in a project like that and will lend their energy.”

This service-learning course is still in the process of being figured out and ideas are not set in stone at the moment.

Laura Hill, coordinator at the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center, said she was excited that Conway-Turner was interested in expanding Buffalo State’s international service work, but a lot more had to be discussed.

“I was able to have a brief conversation with the president about her goals to have students involved in Haiti, but it was only a preliminary discussion,” Hill said. “Much more planning needs to take place.”

Although this program is in the early planning stages, Shannon Stacy, a sophomore fashion and textile major, said she thinks it’s a great idea and is happy that students could be given this opportunity.

“That would be absolutely amazing if students are able to volunteer and be a part of that,” Stacy said. “I think an experience like that can really humble students. I think that’s a problem we have here, we can just go out buy whatever we want at the flip of a dime, but in those places they have nothing.”

If students are interested in being a part of this opportunity, or volunteering in general, they’re encouraged to contact the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center at vslc.buffalostate.edu.

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