As the final weeks of the spring semester close out, students at Howard University are reminiscing on their transformative spring break memories. Instead of the typical party-driven retreats, a special group of students spent their off days completing service projects targeting homelessness, illiteracy and health in major U.S. cities and in Haiti through Howard’s alternative spring break program.
“I have good friends who have told me that it is a life-changing experience, and I went on the trip and I couldn’t agree more,” Freedom Murphy, a junior from Atlanta, told BET.com.
From March 8 to March 15, Murphy was one of 350 student volunteers the premiere HBCU assigned to Haiti, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Memphis, New Orleans and locally in Washington, D.C. This year, Howard reached a milestone and marked the 20th anniversary of its alternative spring break program. Murphy served as a media correspondent for a group that traveled to Detroit. In the Motor City, volunteers helped students of Osborn High School and Cody High School map out their academic and professional careers goals. They also served at adult education facilities and completed maintenance projects at Christ Child House, a society that provides care for abused children.
For Duclas Charles, a doctoral candidate in Howard’s School of Pharmacy, volunteering in Croix des Bouquets, Haiti, was personal. He was raised in Brooklyn, New York, but his parents hail from the Caribbean island. It had been years since he visited Haiti as a child, but returning was a defining moment for him.“Being there I realized that being a second-generation Haitian, it’s definitely my duty to go back and help. Sometime in my future I need to make a plan that’s going to include Haiti,” Charles told BET.com.Professional students from Howard’s health science programs including dentistry, pharmacy and speech-language pathology were sent to the Haitian American Caucus-Haiti in Croix des Bouquets. The town is 12 miles outside of Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince. They conducted dental screenings and speech tests for children.
Victoria Walker, a junior from Hampton, Virginia, and media correspondent for Haiti ASB, said she was uncertain of what to expect upon going to the island. How the country is shown in the media does not compare to the beauty of its people and culture, she found.
“The biggest thing that they told me to take back was to let people know that Haiti is not what the media portrays Haiti to be. Haiti is a thriving country, and Haiti isn’t defined by the earthquake of 2010,” she continued.