After meeting Pastor Leon Dorleans, field director of Haiti Outreach Ministries, during a campus talk on post-earthquake relief efforts in Haiti sponsored by the University Scholars Program, Krystal Smith ‘14 immediately decided she was going to spend her summer making a difference.
Soon after she completed her final exams in May, Smith boarded a flight for Port-au-Prince and did not look back. “I was a little anxious, but was excited about what was in store,” Smith remembers. Unaware at the time, Smith was on the brink of what would become a life-changing experience.
During her five weeks on the island, Smith managed the guest house at the Blanchard compound of Haiti Outreach Ministries. Her role was to work with volunteer groups flying in from places ranging from California to South Korea to help Haiti rebuild after the earthquake that devastated the country last year. Smith coordinated teams involved with projects such as running a medical clinic and building housing for local residents, and led group discussions in the evenings.
In her free time, Smith worked with a local school where she spent most of her time serving as a conversation partner to a class of sixth grade girls who were working on improving their English. She devoted her weekends to soaking up Haitian culture in the capital and visiting a local orphanage.
“About halfway through the trip, I knew I could have stayed permanently because of the people,” says Smith. “They are the most joyful, warm, loving people I have ever met. They are wise, resilient, and full of life.”
Haiti Outreach Ministries is an organization staffed by Haitians committed to the earthquake recovery effort and focuses on areas such as education, health care, vocational training, and nutrition. The nonprofit targets impoverished areas in and near the capital of Port-au-Prince, currently serving the communities of Blanchard, Cite Soleil, Ibo Beach, and Repatriote.
Upon returning home, Smith decided that her experience did not simply end when her summer drew to a close. “I am going to encourage far more people get involved with Haiti in some way – from sponsoring a child to visiting the country to assist with relief efforts,” says Smith.
Smith is working on a degree in social work with plans to pursue a master’s degree in the same field. After completing her studies, Smith intends to work with an urban ministry and engage youth in inner city community projects.