Service-learning course to Haiti is in the works for spring 2016

Sarah Minkewicz, News Editor

The Volunteer and Service-Learning Center at SUNY Buffalo State is working to develop a new service-learning course that’ll allow students to volunteer in Haiti.

The course was 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 in an interview with The Record last fall that she hopes to bring the program to Buffalo State and looks forward to getting students involved in the volunteer work.

For the program, students will stay in Northern Haiti, in a community called Borgne, where they will focus on healthcare, education and sanitation within the community.

This service-learning course will work closely with HOPE, an organization that educates health professionals and community health workers, strengthens health systems and improves the health of women and children.

Laura Rao, Volunteer and Service-Learning Center coordinator, said that although the program is still in the early planning stages, she’s enthusiastic about the amount of interest students and faculty are showing.

“The energy and passion among the participants is very exciting and will take us far,” Rao said in an email to students after a meeting where faculty and students discussed the program.

The meeting took place during Bengal Pause on April 21 in Bacon 117, where a group of faculty and students met to discuss the planning process for the service-learning program. Two groups were created to help the planning process move more swiftly.

A travel and direct service group was created to explore opportunities to support HOPE’s work in Haiti through an organized curricular and/or co-curricular service-learning experience in Haiti. The email also stated that a spring 2016 course, with travel during spring break or summer, was discussed as a possible option. Finding a faculty instructor or co-instructors is the next step in the process.

Yanick Jenkins, who attended the meeting but is not a Buffalo State faculty member, did say she was interested in possibly teaching the course and leading students through the service-learning program in Haiti. However, because she isn’t a Buffalo State faculty member, she said that it’s something that would need to be discussed if her teaching the course could be a possible option.

A fundraising subgroup was another subcommittee that was created as a result of the meeting. The subcommittee will lead efforts to fundraise for HOPE’s operating budget focused on the organization’s education supports and programs. This includes teacher salaries, supplies and books.

“A fall gala, a regional walk, and a student focused effort were discussed as possibilities,” Rao said in the email. “Yves Gachette will be in touch to schedule a subcommittee meeting.”

Yves M. Gachette, director of the Institutional Research Office at Buffalo State, said the program could cost around $57,000 to run. Costs of the program depend on the tuition, program fee, health fee, transportation, technology fee, and the cost for a passport.

Berthlyne Francois, a freshman at Buffalo State and one of the students that attended the meeting on Tuesday, said she’s interested in being a part of the program because “it’s important to giveback.” She also said another reason is because she’s Haitian and would like to visit the country.

The VSLC will hold another meeting on during Bengal Pause on Thursday May 7 in Cleveland 306 for students and faculty that are interesting in being a part of this program.


[email protected]