Greetings from Health for Haiti! As our amazing 2018 Health for Haiti team prepares to head to Haiti in a just a couple short months, we want to acknowledge some other incredible SUNY Broome students who are helping children and adults in Haiti from right here in Binghamton.
SUNY Broome Professor, Sandra Wright, and her students in the Business Information Technology program have been working together as part of the Bridge to Haiti program to advance computer literacy for adults and children in Haiti. Together, they have not only contributed high quality lessons and necessary equipment, they have made a meaningful connection with students in Haiti. Below you can see a video of students in Haiti thanking Professor Wright and her students for all of their work and help. Under the video you can read Professor Wright’s reflection about the project and the impact that it had on her students.
The children in this video live in Cite Soleil, an extremely poor area of Port au Prince. The computer center provided by the Health for Haiti Bridge to Haiti program is giving them exciting opportunities to use technology. Because of donated laptops, equipment provided by Bridge to Haiti, and the lessons provided by Professor Wright and her students, children in Haiti are learning critical new skills and digital literacy.
Global Service Learning in Career Courses: A Thank You to Haiti
by Professor Sandra Wright
“Thank you SUNY Broome! We love you!” What greater joy is there than watching the videos from Cite Soleil, Haiti – the children working hard to learn computer skills, so grateful for what they have been given and unaware of how much they have given us. Bridge to Haiti, a component of SUNY Broome’s Health for Haiti Global Service Learning Course, is a computer literacy program that brings equipment, lessons, and guidance to four communities in Haiti. As of January 2017, over 120 computers have been delivered to Haiti, curricula have been shared from the Bridging the Digital Divide Program, and over 800 students have been taught or are in the process of learning basic computer literacy.
The program is growing and expanding to provide computer literacy training to new groups of children and to adults. Through a generous teaching grant, we were able to purchase additional equipment and provide 40 new lessons to Cite Soleil. It is for the equipment and lessons that the children are grateful. However, it is not the children of Haiti that I wish to reflect upon, but the students of four SUNY Broome Business Information Technology (BIT) courses, who took a journey to Haiti without leaving the lab, and returned wiser and kinder and more determined to work toward a more equitable future for us all.
Global service learning begins with the idea that students grow exponentially in their understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion when they experience firsthand the needs of someone different in race, culture, language, or socioeconomic status, and then use their knowledge, skills and privilege to serve.
For students in BIT courses, this process takes the form of four graduated assignments as part of the Bridge to Haiti program.
The journey for our BIT students began with an initial assignment to research and read about the Bridge to Haiti program, the Health for Haiti programs, technology transfer to third world countries, challenges of understanding cultural needs different than one’s own, and importance of diversity, inclusion and equity in the information technology industry. Reading and writing about these topics broadened their perspectives and opened the door to a live conversation with our Haitian teacher, Mr. Elysee.
In the second assignment, students installed the globally recognized communication app, WhatsApp, on their own phones, and came prepared to participate in a group chat with Mr. Elysee to ask questions and listen to the needs of the community. Students came prepared with insightful questions and plenty of patience. The technology wasn’t always perfect and the language barriers in translating between English and French Creole were difficult, but the students were open minded and eager to learn all they could. Part of their learning was the experience and understanding of the challenges of global communication even with technology.
The response of students after the WhatsApp session was almost universal. “They are so loving.” “They have so much faith.” “They are so grateful.” SUNY Broome students were immediately humbled by the faith, dedication, and optimism of the Haitian people. They were also confronted, many for the first time, with the challenges of sanitation, clean water, food, health and education for Haiti. Students were proud of the work that has been done by SUNY Broome in Haiti and were eager to know how they in turn could help.
Assignment 3 provided this opportunity. Based on what they learned, the students created new lessons for the computer literacy classes. Students took to this assignment eagerly. The teaching grant goal was 10 lessons. Due to the enthusiasm and dedication of the BIT students, 40 lessons were created and delivered to Cite Soleil. The lessons ranged from PowerPoint presentations on computer basics to Excel tutorials on community garden produce revenues. The BIT students put great effort into the lessons they created, motivated by the knowledge that the lesson would be so appreciated in Haiti and so instrumental in educating the next generation, working to break a cycle of poverty for these children.
The final assignment was a reflection on the global service learning experience and on diversity and equity in their own career areas. The student reflections were heartfelt and thoughtful. They reflected on the need for more and deeper understanding of other cultures, of the need to be grateful for the educational opportunities that they are privileged to have, and the challenge of entering career paths in business, health, and information technology where many barriers still exist to achieving a truly diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace.
We often focus on the benefit of global service learning to the communities in which we serve. We don’t as often focus on the profound effect that these learning activities have on our own students and community. It is essential that we continue to pair academics in all disciplines with service, and that courses directly related to professions allow students the space to think critically about global issues and challenges of diversity. It is not enough to leave this work to the general education requirements. In bringing these lessons to our career classes, we ensure that students understand the relevance of these issues in their own lives and their own choices.
Thank you Mr. Elysee, thank you children of Haiti, for opening our hearts and minds and teaching us to embrace our world and strive to make it a better place.
We are so grateful to Professor Wright and her students for sharing their talents, skills, and resources with students in Haiti, and for showing that whether or not you are able to travel to Haiti, this project has a way of changing lives. Thank you for demonstrating how rich and valuable global service learning can be for everyone who participates.
Below are some recent pictures and videos showing the Bridge to Haiti program in action.
Elysee reports that the computer center at his school is a source of great joy and pride for him, his teachers, the students, and their families. He has been contacted by principals from other schools who have asked if their students might come to computer class after school. There is such a need for this type of education in poor areas of Haiti. Each one of these students who has the opportunity to access computer literacy training gains confidence and new skills that will help him or her to build a better future. The student below is from Elysee’s school in Cite Soleil. He asked Elysee if he could make his own video to say thanks for the opportunity to learn to use a computer.
Thanks to everyone who has participated in the Bridge to Haiti program by donating equipment, money for salaries, and lessons. Because of you, there are many kids and adults in Haiti who, just like this young man, can now say that when they see a computer they know what to do with it.