Dinner to raise funds for Haitian students to attend GVSU

GVL / Courtesy - USA Today

GVL / Courtesy – USA Today

Ty Konell

Through the Padnos International Center (PIC), Grand Valley State University offers several study-abroad programs, one of which is a four-week program in Haiti. On the flip side, the PIC has also been working to bring Haitian students to GVSU. To raise funds for these students to study abroad at GVSU, a Haitian dinner event is set for Sunday, Feb. 25, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Glenn A. Niemeyer Learning and Living Center Multipurpose Room.

The money raised will go to the Empowering Haiti Through Education Fund, a GVSU-specific endowed scholarship that helps Haitian students attend GVSU.

“It’s a scholarship that’s specifically set up to be offered to people from Haiti to come to Grand Valley,” said Peter Wampler, associate professor of geology at GVSU and leader of the summer study-abroad program.

Wampler, who has been going to Haiti consistently for over a decade, started by traveling to the country alone, but he has now brought several GVSU students there with him as well.

“I first went to Haiti in 2007, about 11 years ago, and just took a trip there and was involved with a nonprofit organization working there,” Wampler said. “I came back and told my classes at Grand Valley and ended up starting to take students to do research, and the last three years I’ve been taking student groups from Grand Valley.”

In Haiti, the study-abroad students are not simply taking classes—they are also doing hands-on work.

“The name of the study-abroad program is Service Learning and Environmental Issues in Haiti, so it’s a combination (of) doing projects and also learning about it—the culture, geography and environmental issues over there,” Wampler said. 

The group’s service work varies, but the goal is to help both families and entire communities.

“Last year, we distributed about 150 water filters to different families,” Wampler said. “We raised funds before we left, and that was part of our service learning. We had people come, and we trained them on how to use the filters and then gave them one, and we also trained some medical workers there on how to use them and they took them back to their communities.” 

At the dinner event, students who have gone to Haiti as well as Haitian students who have come to GVSU will speak about their favorite moments and overall experiences.

“There will be at least three or four students who have gone on trips there in the past,” Wampler said. “They’ll be showing some photos and talking about what they like about Haiti and about what surprised them about Haiti. We’ll also have a couple of Haitians coming to talk about their experience coming to Grand Valley. They were born in Haiti and came to Grand Valley.

“So, they’ll share their experience of what it was like to come to the U.S., what they think about Haiti, and kind of just their backgrounds and stuff.”