Hoa Nguyen ’15 is accustomed to just a short walk to class—she can get to any location on the Randolph campus in just a few minutes.
So when she volunteered for a camp at a primary school near LaVallee, Haiti, she was surprised by the strenuous, 40-minute walk—and she was impressed by the Hatian children who walked that long, or longer, on a regular basis.
“I was tired and even exhausted after such a long and tiring day, and wondered how the children could walk on such roads to get to the school,” she said. “I was impressed by the children’s ability and willingness to overcome difficulties to get an education.”
Nguyen spent part of her winter break volunteering in Haiti with the organization Volunteers for Peace. She paid for the project with a grant from the Randolph Innovative Student Experience (RISE) program, which supports students’ research, creative projects, and other co-curricular activities.
“What I have learned at Randolph prompted me to carry out this project,” said Nguyen, an economics major. “We have discussed at length in class about poverty, income inequality, sustainable development, globalization, developing countries, and so on. The discussions made me realize that there are still many wrongs in this world and that I am more fortunate than many others. That’s why I want to do volunteer works and help fix the problems.”
Nguyen has decided she would like to work for a nongovernmental organization after college. When she learned about Volunteers for Peace and its service opportunities in Haiti, she felt it was a perfect match for her interests. “I believed that by helping people there, I could challenge myself, get new experiences, and have a better sense of my career choices while still doing good for others,” she said.
For the two weeks of Nguyen’s volunteering experience, she has helped the people in LaVallee organize a New Year Celebration and the annual Kite Festival, a Haitian tradition where people come together to see kites of all kinds, enjoy music, and dance.
Nguyen also participated in the Clean Water for LaVallee Project, where she worked with helped build hand washing stations, plant trees at water sources, and organize workshops where residents of LaVallee discussed the important role of clean water and how to design a sustainable water system.
She also delivered clothes that her friends at Randolph had donated to be given to people in Haiti.
Economics professor John Abell said these kinds of international experiences can be very enriching for Randolph students. “There is nothing to substitute for a first hand encounter, and I am saying that from a teacher’s perspective,” he said. “I cannot say enough about the value of trips like this for all the students.”