SOC 119 HAITI INITIATIVE — SERVICE LEARNING PROJECT (20 points)
* DUE: Last Friday of each semester (before exam week)
* Parts of several discussion group sessions will be devoted to working on this project.
* We do NOT expect you to have extensive meetings outside of class.
Sociology only proves its value when it can be used to address real social problems. And because every year 1,500 SOC 119 students learn about the sociology of U.S.race relations and global inequality, we think it’s time to apply the power of these many minds and sociological imaginations to a “real world” problem–and see what happens.
For now, this “problem” is the socioeconomic development of Haiti. Through this service learning project, SOC 119 students have the opportunity to get involved with the resolution by partnering with Haitians who are pursuing dynamic humanitarian efforts in hospitals throughout Port-Au-Prince. For many years, SOC 119 students asked for something concrete to do to apply what they were learning in class. So this project is the culmination of the ideas of thousands of students before you.
What’s unique about this particular service learning project is that what you learn will not be complete this semester. Not even close. It will unfold over the years ahead–if you stay engaged–since you will be able to track what’s happened as a result of our efforts by following the successes and pitfalls right here on the WinC website.
WHAT IS THE PROJECT?
Haiti is in bad shape economically, but there is a spirit throughout the island – and people who are yearning to make a difference in not only their own lives, but also the lives of others in their communities. Their goal is to provide immediate humanitarian aid to those most in need: patients in the local hospitals who do not have access or cannot afford food and hygiene products. To do so, Haitian volunteers need funds to purchase food and products, cook and prepare care packages, and distribute them to patients.
Each SOC 119 group is charged with the mission of creating and executing a way to raise funds (first link in the chain) that can be passed on to community volunteers who will purchase goods (second link in the chain) which will be distributed to the ill and injured Haitians in hospitals (third link in the chain).
Each link becomes a basis for other societal effects. 1st link: SOC 119 students partaking in a real-world relief response. 2nd link: bringing together a community for a common goal and purchasing products from local markets and entrepreneurs. 3rd link: nourishing bodies to better heal.
There is no target amount of funds that you have to reach. None whatsoever. That is entirely for you to decide as a group AND YOUR GRADE IS IN NO WAY TIED TO HOW MUCH MONEY YOUR GROUP TURNS IN AT THE END OF THE SEMESTER OR WHETHER YOUR GROUP ACTUALLY TURNS IN ANY MONEY.
In past semesters, we opened up this project for students to partner with Haitians in any way that they could imagine. There were some innovative projects that resulted. But the overwhelming response from the groups was that the focus should be on creating ways to raise funds because then particular projects could become more sustainable and visible to generations of SOC 119 students over the years to come. So this focus is valuable for Haitians and for students.
HOW WILL YOU BE EVALUATED?
As a group, you will decide how many points you think you earned (based on your effort, your ability to work as a group, and your creativity), and every group member will receive that number of points.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR GRADE!!! WE WANT YOU TO DO THIS WITH AN OPEN AND CREATIVE MIND.
HOW AND TO WHOM DO WE SUBMIT OUR FUNDS?
We work with an organization called Poverty Resolutions (www.povertyresolusions.org). They are a 501 (c)(3) and therefore all donations are tax deductible. ALL CHECKS SHOULD BE MADE OUT TO POVERTY RESOLUTIONS — but cash will be collected by the Haiti team at the end of the semester.
Here is a letter that you can use for this purpose: Haiti Project Letter About Poverty Resolutions
Address where people can send checks (made out to Poverty Resolutions):
Poverty Resolutions, Inc.
P.O. Box 421
Furlong, PA 18925
WHAT IF WE WANT TO DO A FUNDRAISER ON CAMPUS?
We don’t want you to do fundraisers on campus and definitely not at the HUB. It’s a hassle for us and for you.
CAN WE DO A FUNDRAISER IN THE SOC 119 CLASS?
No. Not only that, but you can’t collect money from students in class. This means that you cannot sell cookies or something else before class inside or outside of 100 Thomas.
BACKGROUND ON HAITI
Already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti suffered a tragic blow to it’s growth, health, and sovereignty on January 12, 2010 as a result of a devastating earthquake. The disaster killed over a quarter of a million people and left 1.5 million homeless — approximately one fifth of the country’s populace. The problems facing the Haitian people are vast. And yet, as with all things involving the life force, Haitians continue to move forward, and tens of thousands of them have plans to improve their lives by way of entrepreneurial ventures. There are thousands of brilliant ideas floating around Haiti just waiting for the spark that will bring them to life. That “spark” might be access to a single resource, assistance with a marketing strategy, a doorway to a market to sell their goods outside of Haiti, technical assistance of one sort or another, or perhaps a small loan.
This semester you will learn about international racism and socioeconomic development—and how the two are uncomfortably linked. We will focus on Haiti as a case study for this purpose. And you will probably feel both pulled to act and cautioned not to act in response to the material. But this is real life—your life and the lives of the people in Haiti with whom you are already interconnected, even if you don’t realize it. And in real life there are no easy answers! So this will be a project that will deepen your understanding of the very real issues we will be discussing and that you will be facing.
WHO ARE WE WORKING WITH?
Very simply, we are working with Haitian youth and women from all over Port-Au-Prince who attend the same church. They are connected by their faith but not limited in their belief to help unconditionally. They are caring community members who are willing to act and put others before themselves. They can contribute their time and energy towards this effort, but do not have the necessary funds to carry out their activities.
So our service learning project steers clear of traditional forms of assistance and “hand-outs,” which often have the unintended consequence of undermining the Haitian culture. Instead, we are partaking in an international partnership to aid those in need. Without the SOC 119 funds, the Haitian volunteers would not be able to purchase goods and provide for the patients. Without the crew in Haiti, the SOC 119 groups could not provide and distribute aid and partake in the humanitarian effort. This work in entirely collaborative.
A number of hospitals are involved in this project and give permission for the group to enter the medical facilities. These hospitals are public institutions that are filled with patients beyond their capacity yet work to care for all those who are admitted. The facilities have limited funding to fully provide for all the patients – and so they accept the helping hand of the community.
WHAT HAVE WE ALREADY CONTRIBUTED?
Previous SOC 119 courses were able to raise funds that were recently used in the Haitian Hospital Initiative. In August of 2012, the youth group and the women were able to purchase local produce in making food for the General Public Hospital in Port-Au-Prince. For the first time, the group was able to purchase enough produce to make food for the entire hospital inpatients. Additionally, 180 patient care packages were made consisting of hygiene products that were also distributed, 40 of which were baby care packages with clothing for newborns (custom made by a local entrepreneur). The purpose is to keep these events consistent throughout the year by utilizing the SOC 119 funds in this activity.
WHAT DID IT TAKE TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN?
This event was a 48 hour non-stop process, beginning with extensive planning initiated by the women. During this process, the women decide on the logistics behind the hospital visit, particularly, what to make, what products and goods to purchase, how much funding will be needed, and so on. The following morning, the women set out to shop for fresh produce at the local market in the heart of Cite Soleil. Beginning at 9am and lasting well into the afternoon, the women purchase and carry the produce through the market in large sacs. When all hands are full, the products are unloaded onto a waiting tap-tap (truck) driven by another community member. With a full cab, the products and the women are driven back to the church where the cooking would take place.
A small room is designated for the cooking: cement flooring and walls all of which are dimly lit by a small light in the corner. All the magic happens in that small dark room where the youth laugh and joke while working and making care packages and food is made for over 300 people on charcoal heated grills. The remainder of the day proceeding the shopping trip is spent cleaning and preparing the food. The latter part of the night is spent in cooking of the meal and the sunrise signals for the packaging of the food for an early trip to the hospital.
Around 6am, the food containers and packages are loaded onto trucks and on their way to the hospital where the group distributes the products throughout the hospital until 10am. This contribution is generously made by SOC 119 students who raised the funds and the Haitian volunteers whose hard work and time realized this mission.
Together, this collaborative effort can bridge the gap between two distinct nations to fulfill a common goal.
MICRO FINANCING PART OF THE PROJECT
All funds raised this semester by SOC 119 students will be channeled to Poverty Resolutions , a non-profit organization dedicated to the eradication of “one dollar-a-day poverty” in Haiti. Poverty Resolutions works towards this goal by micro-financing funds to businesses and entrepreneurs. Here’s how micro-financing works: a non-profit organization loans money to a business or and entrepreneur, with minimal interest rates. When the business or entrepreneur is able to repay the loan, the non-profit will take that money, along with any profit that was made as a result of the interest and re-loan it to another business or entrepreneur. In this fashion, more businesses and entrepreneurs are getting the seed money that they desperately need to expand their businesses. Wthat is also admirable about micro-financing is that the money is NOT A HAND-OUT or donation, but instead money that the business or entrepreneur will eventually pay back, so the business or entrepreneur does not develop dependency on the outside organization.
All of the money that is raised funnels through a micro financing group, Poverty Resolutions. Poverty Resolutions helps us to legitimately pass the funds we raise to the initiatives we are part of in Port Au Prince. They help us ensure that the funds we raise are used to local and sustainable efforts that help both Haitians and SOC 119 students work for years to come.