From personal experience, I have learned that access to education is one avenue that can completely change the destiny of an individual and a community. Shaina Gilbert (Brandeis ’10) also knew this when she started Empowering Through Education Camp in Hinche, Haiti in 2008. When she started the camp she thought it would serve as a one year event and never expected that through the help of donors, volunteers and the community, it would be running for six consecutive years.
ETE camp is made up of over 150 of Hinche’s most vulnerable youth and is focused on preparing them to become future leaders by strengthening their academic skills, increasing self-confidence, and actively building community and parental support. Through critical classes like Math, Literacy and Leadership Building, academic skills are strengthened. By promoting teamwork and leadership the self-confidence of the students is increased and works to better many areas of their lives. Finally, active community building and parental support is created by connecting them with respected community leaders such as the mayor, and planning community-wide events that allow parents to witness the development and potential of their children through education as well as hosting an afternoon adult English learners class.
For the first part of my internship, I have been working on preparation work for the four week camp to come. The camp is set to begin with an Open House on Sunday, July 6th with the first day of camp beginning on the following day and running until the final Closing Ceremony on August 1st. Prep work has included inventory, data entry, curriculum development, researching cost efficient supplies and grant writing. In order to be ready for the many excited campers inventory and data entry needed to be done to ensure that there were enough supplies such as notebooks, pens, pencils and hand sanitizer. During the month of June, I also worked with Shaina, who is currently a teacher in Boston, to help develop the curriculum that we will be using during ETE Camp 2014. It is important that in order to ensure that ETE Camp continues to run smoothly in years following, financial research for the most cost efficient supplies and grant writing needed to be taken care of. During the length of the camp, I will be co-teaching English classes as well as leading leadership and extracurricular activities. Finally, staff bios were put together for ETE Camp’s website about this year’s staff including one about me.
I found out about ETE Camp through a friend and Brandeis alum who attended and helped fundraise for ETE camp in previous years. When he told me about his experience and how the camp came to be, I knew that it was something I needed to be a part of. He put me in contact with Shaina and after speaking to her about the work that she has been doing I was blown away by her drive and the stories she shared with me about the children who she has worked with. So far my experience just in making preparations has proven to be even better than I had expected and I cannot imagine what it will be like upon my arrival to Haiti on July 4th. I am so excited to meet and begin working with the wonderful and intelligent children of Hinche who will be attending this year’s camp. I have spoken to other volunteers and have heard only amazing things about the passion and love these children have for learning and for life. This will truly be a life-changing experience and I look forward to learning how to develop my teaching and leadership skills as well as what it takes to run a camp such as this one. More than anything, I am looking forward to learning all that the children have to teach me both about their community and about life. I hope and believe this experience will be one of mutual growth and learning and I am counting down the days until take off on Friday, July 4th!