GMercyU Sends Team to Haiti for Immersion Experience

Gwynedd Mercy University recently partnered with the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas on an immersion experience as part of their Mercy Focus on Haiti (MFOH) initiative.

Six members of the GMercyU Community, comprising of faculty, staff, and a student, traveled to Gros Morne, Haiti for a week-long discovery and fact-finding trip. While there, the delegation met with Haitian leaders and MFOC's partners to learn more about their projects and specific needs.

The goal of the delegation is to ascertain both academic and service opportunities that would be beneficial to the people and projects of Gros Morne and GMercyU students. The vision is for the partnership with the people of Haiti to be longterm and evolving and to invite the Conference of Mercy Higher Education sister schools to collaborate as opportunities arise. This delegation will lead GMercyU's ongoing task force in the dreaming and planning of that evolution.

GMercyU is dedicated to infusing service and global awareness into its education. This partnership will extend GMercyU's reach and give students another service learning opportunity in addition to initiatives such as Study Abroad trips and Alternative Spring Break.

Read more about the team's experiences below.

Day 1

"Our shuttle picked us up at 7 a.m. and we arrived to JFK Airport in less than two hours. We reached Port-au-Prince, Haiti around 4:30 p.m. after a four-hour flight. Ms. Andi from MFOH and our bus driver Papa were waiting for us at the airport when we arrived. After checking into the hotel, another MFOH key member Sr. Kathy and Sarah, who is the director of Mercy Partnership Fund at Mercy Investment Services. We spent some time to get to know each other better. We also shared our personal connection with the Sisters of Mercy and our goals for the trip. All GMercyU delegation members are excited to begin this immersion experience and create unforgettable memories with our compassion and caring MFOH members." - Maya Tsai, Director of International Programs

Day 2

"What an amazing, first full day! After leaving our welcoming hotel in Port Au Prince, we embarked on the four-hour bumpy ride to Gros Morne. The countryside is beautiful. We saw many rice fields, towns and mountains. Our hosts at Gros Morne are very kind, and the food is great. Ten of us fit in a Jeep and managed to drop a camera out of the window. We visited the mobile recycling program but were caught in a downpour, which helped us to understand how the sudden heavy rains can cause flash flooding and the spread of pollution. We ended our afternoon with an inspirational talk with Sister Pat and are excited about the many possibilities for GMercyU to get involved. We ended our evening with another delicious meal and a reflection on the rooftop overlooking the mountains. Tomorrow, another full day!" - Janice Nuss, Director of Field Education, BSW Program

Day 3

"Our day began with the sound of roosters in the distance. We enjoyed a lovely communal breakfast at Kay Vizite as we prepared for an engaging day. We walked two blocks to tour the local hospital. The hospital is supported by a Sister, Sister Jackie. Sister Jackie is of the order of Religious Sisters of Jesus and Mary. Sister Jackie has been living in Gros Morne for more than twenty years. Sister Jackie is very involved with all aspects of the hospital. She is dedicated to the health of all in Gros Morne. Following the hospital Sister Jackie escorted us to Maison Bon Samaritan. Maison Bon Samaritan is a home for the vunerable that do not have family able to care for them. We learned about the excellent care the residents receive and were lucky enough to enjoy their monthly birthday celebration. The residents came to life during the party, some even dancing to the music and sharing jokes.Our afternoon was spent in the hills which overlook the town. We were hiking through the hills to learn of the Chatodo and reforestation projects. The Chatodo project offers large drums which capture rain for clean water. It is a very innovative way to solve what could be a deadly problem. The homes with the Chatodos extend the fresh water to their neighbors. We are so fortunate to meet so many making a difference in Haiti. I know GMercyU will gain so much by working with this very loving community!" - Jill Winnington, Assistant Dean and Business Program Director

Day 4

"Today we visited four women from Gros Morne who participated in the CLM (Chemin Lavi Miyo) program which is a branch of the Fonkoze organization. The English translation for the program is ' Pathway to a Better Life.' After lunch, we met with about 10 teachers and the principal of the School of Jesus and Mary to learn about their schools and possible needs. The teachers appeared to have a sense of pride for their school and in their students. The opportunities for the school are endless and after meeting with the principal and teachers, the GMercyU team felt empowered in their possible efforts for the people of Gros Morne. The reflection theme for tonight was empowerment - the ability to listen and open to hearing others needs. We heard a woman say today "I was told that I was not a person until I joined CLM," and to me that's how you empower a person to do better. The organization gave her a voice and a different way of thinking. One of our colleagues took it a bit further and said that by giving her the opportunity to tell her story to us, it gave her a way (small way) to make her feel like a person. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting the women and appreciate the work of the Fonkoze organization. We were left with another fantastic day and we are blessed to be first group to visit from GMercyu.

P.S. The food is amazing. We start every morning with a full breakfast, then lunch, and end the day with dinner. We had mango in our lunch menu today and it was unbelievably good."

-Rouseline Emmanuel, Director of Student Activities and Leadership Programs

Day 5

"We started our last day of activities in Gros Morne with a ride out to the Grepin Agronomy Center to meet Guy-Marie and Teligene, who explained the many projects and training efforts underway there. They gave us a tour of only a small part of the many acres that spread out from the center through the reforested land that spread to the scenic mountains nearby. Rows of tree and plant saplings were laid out for when they'd be ready for planting, and our hosts informed us of the environmental and economic value of several. They are engaged in planting cacia, for instance, as a more sustainable source for charcoal. Even the packets that the cedar saplings they showed us have been designed to be environmentally responsible. We watched as Guy-Marie and Teligene fed tilapia in two of the four large tanks meant to serve as models for local residents to grow at home in combination with the farming techniques that they can learn there. The Grepin Center also has classrooms and forty rooms for visitors choosing to stay there for one or more nights.

After that, we took a long and bumpy ride - although not nearly as bumpy as our voyage in the bed of a pickup truck the day before! - out into the deep heart of rural Haiti. We met up with three veterinarians affiliated with the Grepin Center as they were making their occasional rounds to tend to the livestock animals that many families depend upon to support them. As we sat along the side of the road, we watched the lead veterinarian expertly deliver three injections to more than a dozen or so of the thirty goats they had treated that morning. Families brought their goats out to the roadside, so the daily life of local residents carried on while the veterinarians performed their work: motos speeding by, a boy going back and forth with his donkey with loads of rocks, and neighbors simply strolling by to see all the fuss and chat.

We had a longer time to rest after lunch than we've had during the previous three days-a welcome respite from our grueling pace! Then we were off to our last visit in Gros Morne: the Mercy Beyond Borders Haiti headquarters. We took a 10-minute walk through Gros Morne to get there, a chance to explore a little more of the town on foot. MBB supports women's empowerment through academic support and skills training, connecting it directly to Catherine McAuley's original vision. Once the sound of the World Cup match being blasted from a TV across the street died down, we were treated to a serenade from the women taking a sewing class and then another serenade from the women in the literacy class next door. Afterward, we had a productive conversation with the MBB director, Jonathan, while sipping passion fruit juice on the MBB site's second-floor porch.

Once we arrived back at Kay Vizite, a welcome rainstorm cooled things down a bit. We've had an exhausting four days in Gros Morne, but we learned a lot and are eager to start the journey home tomorrow."

-Michael Clinton, History Professor

Day 6

"Early birds catch the worms. Our new day started with the rooster, chanting like always - only earlier. We had a quick breakfast and packed some snacks for our trip to Port-Au-Prince. We left Gros Morne at 6:10 a.m. to go to Port-au- Prince. The road from Gros Morne to Gronaive was very bumpy for the first hour. The other three hours were not as bad. Since we had the best driver in Haiti, Papa and his wonderful assistant Gary made sure all went well. Even though the roads are not in the best conditions we all felt safe with Papa. The trip back was much quieter compared to going. Some people were very alert and enjoyed the beauty of the country one last time, others were resting peacefully. Once in Port-Au-Prince, we visited the Metal shop where talented artists create beautiful art pieces with metals. From the metal shop to our hotel we experienced heavy traffic. Again, thank God we had our wonderful, experienced and very skillful driver Papa, without him we wouldn't have been able to make it. However, we were able to explore a little of Port-Au-Prince. After two long hours, we arrived at our hotel and had lunch immediately after checking in. Since we were all tired we rested. Around 8:00 p.m. we met for dinner. The food was great. Lastly, we said Goodbye to Papa since his time with us was done." - Dieunica Beaudouin, Gerontology Student

Day 7 (and beyond)

"Traveling overseas energizes you because it takes you out of your usual way of seeing the world and yourself. Today, is the last day of our trip. We enjoyed a full breakfast buffet at the hotel in Port-au-Prince but we missed the intimate mealtime gathering and prayer at Kay Vizite, the Guest House in Gros Morne. The four-hour flight home went smooth. Everyone seems quiet on the shuttle from JFK to GMercyU campus as we returned to the US late in the evening.

This week, we immersed ourselves in a cross-cultural learning experience. At times, it was strange but always exciting. We ate unfamiliar and delicious foods, went hiking, took cold showers with a flashlight when the power went off, rode on a truck bed, watched goats being vaccinated, chillaxed on a rooftop after a rainstorm, and made lots of new friends. We know GMercyU will return to Haiti soon. And when we do return, we will have friends waiting to greet us." - Maya Tsai, Director of International Programs

Special thanks to:

  • Mercy Focus on Haiti
    • Andi, Sr. Kathy, and Sarah
    • Papa (bus driver) and Gary (assistant)
    • Diana (cook) and Dieula (housekeeper) at Kay Vizite - the Guest House in Gros Morne.
    • Fonkoze's Chemen Lavi Miyo (CLM) - Pathway to a Better Life: Steve Werlin, Gauthier Dieudonne (Director) and Lavil (Nurse)
  • Pwopte Mobil Recycling: Adeline (Project Manager)
  • Religious of Jesus and Mary - Haiti: Sr. Jackie and Sr. Pat
  • Mercy Beyond Borders: - Jonathon LaMare (Director) and Rutchilia Bleus (Scholarship Coordinator)