GVSU professor starts first Haiti study abroad trip

GVL / Courtesy Peter Wampler

GVL / Courtesy Peter Wampler

Ty Konell

The summer of 2016 marked the first ever GVSU study abroad trip to Haiti, which lasted from May until June. The trip was led by geology professor Peter Wampler and his assistants Joe Courtade and Denielle Riley.

Along with the three faculty members were seven student travelers: Jessica Curry, Michael Durand, Melanie Edwards, Patrick MacDonald, Colin Mandigo, Hayley Schram and Sierra Williams.

While in Haiti, the group observed doctors and nurses in Haitian hospitals and ultimately helped local communities by installing wells for clean drinking water.

The program is a joint endeavor between the geology department and the Frederick Meijer Honors College, and course credits are applied to students in both the geology department and those studying in the Honors College. Although it is listed as a geology-focused trip, this program is interdisciplinary and is open to students of all majors who want to learn more about Haiti first-hand.

“Anybody that really wants to get out of their comfort zone a little bit and see Haiti in a deeper way should go. You get to understand Haiti in a broader sense other than what you hear in the news,” Wampler said.

“Just being in Haiti and observing the cycle of the food, to people, health and the city life was just cool to compare and contrast,” Williams said.

During the trip, the group taught Haitians how to play American card games like “Uno” and hiked the Haitian mountains.

“We did a variety of different hikes throughout the trip, one in particular was a sunrise hike,” Schram said. “Once we made it to the top, we listened to women singing and giving thanks. It was a magical moment.”

Outside of exploring the country and socializing with Haitians, the students and staff made a priority of doing service work in the communities they stayed in. This was primarily done by the installation of wells in communities that had little to no access to clean drinking water.

Over the course of the trip, three wells were installed by the GVSU students and faculty. Each well can provide the water needed for one to 30 families, and were installed using hand tools instead of a digging rig.

“We had the students help with (the wells), and we got to work with the families in the communities,” Wampler said. “They were helping too, so we were all working together to do this.”

“We met so many amazing individuals, people working hard to benefit their communities and eager to work with international partners to help those in need,” Courtade said.