Cadets Commit to Improving Conditions in Haiti
LEXINGTON, Va., April 16, 2012 -- “Anpil, anpil.”
These words, in Haitian Creole, expressed the intensity of one man’s joy at the arrival of VMI cadets to lay the groundwork for a new clinic to serve his village.
Ten cadets in VMI’s Engineers Without Borders chapter, led by Maj. Tim Moore ’97, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, worked toward establishing the clinic in Zoranger, Haiti, during spring furlough, March 10-17. The cadets were supporting the operations of Foundation Manmo, an organization formed by Haitian Rosemona Gedeon to serve the children living in Zoranger.
Their work included site assessment, surveying, and soil assessment to create plans for future construction of a clinic to house Foundation Manmo’s operations. Currently, the foundation is working out of tents and temporary shelters.
“Right after the  earthquake, there were a substantial number of displaced children,” said Moore. “They fled to the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, to areas in the mountains where they didn’t feel like the earthquake could get them.”
Improving life for the children who fled to Zoranger has become the goal of this group of cadets. Having laid the groundwork during this trip, the next step is to raise the $60,000 required to make their plans a reality.
“The cadets have committed to wanting to put this clinic in, so we’re going to be raising as much money as possible to try and get this thing off the ground by spring of next year,” said Moore.
Cadet Carrie Wortham ’12, Engineers Without Borders chapter president, who plans to return to Haiti following graduation to volunteer for the nonprofit Midwives for Haiti, expressed the dedication that the group has to serving the people of Haiti:
“From the beginning, this team demonstrated what it means to truly care about a cause. Along with homework, military duties, and athletics, most of the cadets went out of their way to find time to raise money for Foundation Manmo, the nonprofit we committed to serve. Upon our arrival, we presented a check of over $7,000 to the organization.”
In addition to planning for the clinic, cadets had the chance to spend time with children at a local orphanage.
“The most rewarding experience from this trip was bringing joy to the children living in the orphanage,” said Cadet Bruce Howard ’12. “Although it was great to work on the clinic out in the country, I benefited most from seeing the smiles on the children’s faces. All they wanted to do was to be picked up and carried around, so if I could do that for a few hours then I knew that would make their day.”
Despite the language barrier, connecting with children at the orphanage, who were mostly age 5 and younger, was a powerful experience for many of the cadets.
“We spent most of the days doing preschool with them, as well as playing soccer and dancing with them to Michael Jackson, which they seemed to love,” said Samantha Jones ’12. “It was nice to step out of my comfort zone and the everyday pressure of VMI and to be a child again; the perspective from their level is quite refreshing and rejuvenating.”
The trip is expected to become an annual event for VMI cadets.
“I pretty much know what I’m doing for my spring breaks for the next 20 years,” said Moore. “This is a terrific opportunity for the cadets; they can go out there every year and do work in their disciplines.”
Moore explained the many opportunities that cadets from different disciplines will have for service learning at this site. Those areas of service include engineering, business, health care, education, and agriculture.
Ultimately, the six-acre site will include a day school and a sustainable garden, in addition to the clinic. All these elements will contribute to changing the lives of area residents.
“What I would like to see it become is a respite or an oasis for these people where they can go and they can feel safe and comfortable,” said Moore. “I want to give a sense of security to them. I think that’s important.”
Cadets are also excited about beginning the work that will change area residents’ lives.
“It was amazing to help begin the foundation for what will be a major facility and resource for that area,” said Jones. “I feel very privileged to be a part of laying the foundation of something that could change the lives of hundreds of people in Haiti.”
Fundraising is vital to making improvements to the site, and cadets have plans to continue fundraising throughout the year.
“We have implemented multiple fundraising efforts that have all proven very profitable. These include exam week care packages, presentations to alumni donor circles, and ‘EWB nights’ at local restaurants,” said Thomas Battiata ’13, who will serve as the VMI Engineers Without Borders president next year.
“The money we raised went directly into paying for the buildings that will be a clinic for hundreds of people who never had access to medical services. It is incredible how big of an impact our project will have on their quality of life for now and future generations.”
Benefit concerts are also planned, along with an online fundraiser that provides cadets in barracks with care packages and baked goods. Information is available at www.vmi.edu/ewb.
--John Robertson IV