In Haiti, when you ask students what they would like to be when they grow up, they always answer, “a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher.” This proved to be true when I asked 60 students this question in the first week of Empowering Through Education (ETE) Camp. After reflecting on why this might be, I came to realize that most of them say these careers because they are pretty much the norm in Haiti. These are the careers students are aware of. At ETE Camp, we believe that it is important to teach these students about other career paths.
Now, when I ask the students what they would like to be they don’t all say, “doctor, teacher and lawyer”. Students chime in with jobs like, “engineer, business woman, agronomist, professional soccer player, and neurologist”. In addition, they’ve started to see themselves as leaders. They understand that they have a sense of responsibility to serve their community by contributing to its development. ETE Camp over the past 9 consecutive years has been forming youth to become leaders in Hinche, Haiti. Although that doesn’t erase the fact that certain students still don’t have access to a quality education; it empowers these young people to fight for a better education for themselves and their peers.
ETE Camp creates the momentum of producing leaders in the Hinche community because of the support of many individuals. Each year many people from the US volunteer at ETE Camp. Now, we have over 40 counselors who teach during the program. Teaching at the program not only benefits the young leaders in Hinche, but also it benefits individuals like me who volunteer. Many counselors who volunteer are English teachers in the United States, often they teach English as a second language. At ETE Camp, Creole is the dominant spoken language but our counselors teach English, Engineering, Leadership, and Mathematics. They gain perspective on how challenging it can be to learn a second or third language and can apply this to the struggles that immigrants might face when starting school in the United States of America while learning a new language. The experiences staff have at ETE Camp usually shape the way they teach students when returning to the US.
To sum it up, ETE Camp creates an opportunity for youth to learn how to be leaders. It gives students the confidence to think outside of the norms when choosing a career. It opens a door for people like me to make an impact on individuals I would not meet if it were not for the camp. The smalls steps ETE Camp supporters take, help us to accomplish something great and help students SUCCEED!
We’ve always referred to Brandeis University as a school that is strongly based on social justice due to its dynamic history and population. We have a culture at Brandeis where we serve the underprivileged and give them opportunities that otherwise, they would not have access to. Many students at Brandeis are involved in social justice work in one way or another. My passion to be involved in work that fights for equal rights is what attracted me to Brandeis.
At Brandeis, I am not only seeing other people do social justice work, I am also able to do my own work. “Empowering Through Education” Camp offers children a quality curriculum that they do not find in the schools in their community. Many schools in Haiti require a fee for attendance. Families that cannot afford this payment are not able to send their students to school and these children miss out on the opportunity to attend school. Also, the more elite schools have higher fees so families who do have some funds might elect to send their children to less elite schools because of the cost. ETE camp is making sure that all students, no matter what school they attend, are given the same education and materials as their peers so all are able to equally enjoy the camp experience.
On Sunday, July 2 ETE Camp had an open house as the program started on July 3. Parents and students were extremely excited to have the opportunity to be at the camp during the vacation because otherwise these students would not do anything during their summer break. During the open house, unfortunately, many students had to be turned away because camp is limited to sixty children. It was really hard to see some children cry and many parents go home very disappointed. Even though we are aware that all students deserve a quality education, our capacity is extremely limited due to resources and funding.
Brandeis University and ETE Camp in Hinche Haiti are both working to achieve a social justice mission by providing a quality education to unprivileged children. As ETE Camp is in its 9th consecutive year, we have alumni that are starting to give back to the camp and it is amazing to see how the work of social justice and equality is really working within the Hinche community. It is a powerful to have the opportunity to do work like this and I am very passionate about carrying the Brandeis University legacy through this work. I thank all of you who share my vision and have helped make this work possible for me.
Many schools in Haiti are limited in providing a good quality education and there are few extracurricular activities for students to participate in, if any. To combat these issues ETE (Empowering Through Education) Camp was born, an organization that gives underprivileged students in Hinche, Haiti the opportunity to have access to a quality curriculum education which they do not have access to in their regular schools. Students in this program are exposed to leadership, engineering, English and math classes which are designed to strengthen their academic skills, build their confidence and teach them to become leaders in their community. Furthermore, the program serves two meals per day to approximately 60 participants and holds afternoon programming that includes icebreaker activities, soccer, and much-more.
ETE Camp was founded in 2009, by Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program (MKTYP) and Brandeis Alumna Shaina Gilbert as director, five other Brandeis students, and Shaina’s father, Boston Public Schools teacher, Garry Gilbert. ETE Camp has already served 200+ youth participants and provided summer work opportunities to adults in Haiti and it’s where I’ll spend my summer WOW placement.
WHAT IS IT THAT I DO? As a teacher with ETE camp, I will teach three classes on effective leadership practices a day. I adapted and refined a curriculum for this program. I will also help lead afternoon activities including debriefing morning classes with the students and leading games for community building. Afterward, I will attend the staff meetings and debrief the day and discuss what we can do as a staff to improve for the next day.
Also, this is my second year at camp and I intend to start a poetry competition for the students. The purpose of the competition will be to support graduates of ETE camp who may not have opportunity to continue showcasing their poetry talent. From my previous experience with ETE Camp, one of the organization’s missions is to keep improving for its students and to form leaders in the community that will lead in the future. I truly believe that by teaching a subject like leadership, I can show that a leader can also be a community influencer. Now that I am done preparing the curriculum, I cannot wait to start working with the ETE Camp students in Hinche, Haiti.
END OF THE SUMMER GOAL: By the of the summer, I aim to create a ripple effect on the current ETE Camp students and the alumni; where they will continue to think critically and engage in conversation about how they can contribute to their community as leaders. I hope to create a book for ETE Camp with a combination of alumni stories and poems. I also hope to discover new ways in which ETE Camp could be improved for next year. Working at ETE Camp is one of my favorite ways to spend the summer. I know how grateful and excited the students in the Hinche community will be to have us working with them again this year and I want them to know that I believe in them.