by Natalie Rand

Earlier this year, a group of College of Charleston students embarked on a mission trip to Haiti in hopes of making a positive impact on local communities by visiting orphanages and helping to build medical clinics.

Megan Johnson in Haiti

The trip to the rural village of Duverger, Haiti, was organized through Haiti180, a national humanitarian organization with chapters across the United States, including a newly formed chapter at the College. The stated mission of Haiti180 is to facilitate the development of education, housing, and medical care in impoverished areas through faith-based leadership. The CofC chapter, however, is not affiliated with any particular religion and welcomes all students.

Haiti180 was brought to CofC a year ago by Megan Johnson, a junior whose involvement with the organization in high school motivated her to share her passion for the project with the CofC community. With the help of two CofC classmates, Lucy Worden and Brendan Lynch, and the eagerness of 10 other students, Haiti180 became an official club in February 2017.

“After we announced that we were trying to put a mission trip together, we were extremely excited at how many students jumped at the opportunity to help,” says Johnson. “Their drive to lend a helping hand was inspiring.”

Haiti180 on a hike.

After raising nearly $10,000 to conduct their 2017 trip, Johnson and her fellow student leaders are now busy planning another trip to Haiti for May 2018. Students can get involved with Haiti180 and learn more about its mission work by following the Instagram account, cofchaiti180, which posts updates on informational meetings and progress in Duverger.

With the next trip scheduled, Haiti180 hopes to recruit up to 22 students to participate in projects similar to those it carried out on the last visit, such as caring for children at Kay Mari Orphanage, paving roads and facilitating the construction of medical clinics. There is a scarcity of medical clinics throughout rural areas of the nation, including Duverger. Local residents have had to travel over four hours to find medical care. Johnson says Haiti180 has been helping to build a new medical clinic for the village’s residents.

“The organization has been building this beautiful building for about three years now and it’s finally getting ready to open,” says Johnson. “It will have a radiology, maternity, and pediatric section. The clinic will be home to both Haitian and American doctors and nurses.”

Haiti180 at the orphanage.

During the 2017 trip, Haiti180 students stayed in an orphanage with around 30 children, and spent a lot of time listening to the stories of people who live in this small, mountainside community. The students encountered one man in particular who made a significant impact on them, Johnson says. The man had been in a motorcycle accident, but he had not received proper medical treatment for his injuries. The man had been confined to his hut for almost eight years before Haiti180 stepped in to improve his situation.

“We helped change his bandages everyday, learned how to change his catheter, and brought him meals throughout the week,” recalls Johnson.

Interactions like this cut to the heart of what the organization hopes to accomplish through its humanitarian work in Haiti. Johnson says the positivity and resiliency of the people of Duverger resonated deeply with the students who made the trip.

They rely on family, faith, and the kindness of strangers to survive in life,” says Johnson. “That’s a message we will carry with us forever.”

The CofC students who took part in the 2017 trip to Haiti are: Billy Calvert, Aria Joseph, Hannah Moroney, Taylor Durand, Nicole Lennox, Tess Shymanski, Hannah Dorsch and Megan Johnson.