Tighter bonds with Haiti

Group from WLU travels to Haiti to help bring training and resources

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Contributed Image

Faculty at Wilfrid Laurier University took advantage of the new fall reading week to further develop the school’s educational initiatives by taking a trip to Haiti this past week.

The trip was part of an effort by the faculty of education, which has been running for over five years to bring training and resources to students and educators in Haiti.

Though the focus has historically been on English as a second language training, the recent visit was meant to further develop the needs and priorities of Laurier’s Haitian counterparts.

The Laurier faculty, which included members of the faculty of education as well as an academic director from the school of business and economics, were also joined by a Laurier graduate student, an employee from the online learning website Desire2learn, workers from the Ontario Ministry of Education, a principal from the local school board and academics from several American universities.

Having successfully partnered with educators in Haiti over the past five years, the aim of the most recent trip was to develop an idea of what could be accomplished moving forward.

“We kind of came to this natural point of saying, ‘Some good stuff happened over the last five years, so what could we imagine happening over the next five years,’” said Steven Sider, assistant professor within the faculty of education and participant in the collaboration with Haiti.

Sider has been making trips to Haiti since 2003, but the goal this time was to see if an incubator could support social development in the country of Haiti.

The participants are in the country to learn, as well as help the Haitians reach their economic and education goals.

In response to the needs expressed by partners in Haiti, the ongoing emphasis will be on strengthening programs in ESL training, online learning opportunities and special education training.

Sider warned that the group needed to move forward by setting real, attainable goals without letting their passion get in the way,

“With much of the relationship between the developing and the developed world, there’s always promises made and often promises broken,” he explained.

The most concrete project to come of this trip was an agreement by Sider along with two American educators, and a professor from the State University of Haiti, to the collaborative creation of multilingual learning modules, which would allow for comparative learning between schools, nations and languages.

Though even access to such a course could be difficult for students living in Haiti, Sider expressed his team’s positive outlook.

“Okay, let’s look to see what are the barriers and what are the obstacles, but then look to see how we can overcome those.”

The goal for Laurier’s team and their associates was to focus on creating sustainable, concrete steps, which could then be grown and strengthened by their Haitian partners.

“The sustainability piece is in them owning and leading the change,” said Jessica Vorsteveld, the graduate student from Laurier’s Brantford campus who participated in the trip.

“And us being able to impart whatever skills and expertise we can in empowering them to do that more effectively.”

“Little by little, straw by straw, the bird builds its nest”— this Haitian proverb resounds with Sider when reflecting on how each small initiative works towards building a better, more sustainable future for Haiti and its citizens.

“It’s not through multimillion-dollar massive national programs that we will see change happen in a place like Haiti, but through individuals who have a key desire, a passion I would call it, to make a change,” Sider said.

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