Students spend summer building school for a Haitian village

Students go to Haiti, during the summer to build school for the village of Abraham through BuildOn

By Izzy Hedges, Staff Writer

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While most students were happy to have a couple months away from school, three students spent their summer building one.

To the beat — A Haitian child drums while villagers and students work on constructing a new school in the village of Abraham. “They would play and occasionally dance along while we were working,” junior Quentin Harrington said.

Photo courtsey of Claire Walther
To the beat — A Haitian child drums while villagers and students work on constructing a new school in the village of Abraham. “They would play and occasionally dance along while we were working,” junior Quentin Harrington said.

June 23 through July 1, juniors Claire Walther, Tia Herrman and Quentin Harrington went to Haiti to help build a school in the village of Abraham through the program BuildOn.

“My favorite part was definitely the first day we got into the village,” Walther said. “They had this amazing welcoming ceremony for us, and they were all singing songs and all of the school kids had come and made us signs.”

The project began the year before when Maddy Johnson, a Free State junior, mentioned BuildOn to Barbara Nitz, who was a sixth-grade teacher at Southwest Middle School for the six students who needed a sponsor for the Haiti trip.

“I was quick to say that I would do it,” Nitz said. “Working with these young people was a delight. It was hard work leading up to the trip with fundraising, but the kids made it fun.”
The group — made up of Free State and LHS students — raised $40,000 during the year. They held bake sales, garage sales and sold coffee provided by BuildOn.

On the Line — Volunteers work at a rock line to help create the foundation for the school in Haiti. “It was really fun because as we were passing the rocks they taught us different words in Creole,” Harrington said.

Photo courtesy of Claire Walther
On the Line — Volunteers work at a rock line to help create the foundation for the school in Haiti. “It was really fun because as we were passing the rocks they taught us different words in Creole,” Harrington said.

Coming together — Junior Claire Walther poses with her and junior Tia Herrman’s family in Haiti. “We had just finished doing a dance circle and it got really dark,” Walther said. “We got the camera out and did a little night photo shoot, which the kids really enjoyed.”

Photo courtesy of Claire Walther
Coming together — Junior Claire Walther poses with her and junior Tia Herrman’s family in Haiti. “We had just finished doing a dance circle and it got really dark,” Walther said. “We got the camera out and did a little night photo shoot, which the kids really enjoyed.”

Once in Haiti, students got to help build the school they had raised money for.

“When we got there, we started digging holes for foundational things, and we started shifting rocks from a big pile of rocks that they got shipped there and stacked them along and created the wall,” Walther said. “We made some rebar for the sides of it and then started cementing in the foundation.”
Students were separated into groups staying with Haitian families. Most villagers didn’t speak English, creating communication challenges.

“Some other people in the village spoke a little English, but our family completely didn’t, so there was a lot of laughing, a lot of trial and error,” Walther said. “A lot of charades and acting out what we needed to do.”

Students who took part in this trip said they were eager to take another trip through BuildOn.

“It was a pretty life-changing trip, you know, to see what kind of poverty they had there and to know that I helped,” Harrington said.

A few weeks after returning from Haiti, Nitz received a picture of the finished school. It’s white with red trim, saying “Ecole Nationale D’Abraham, Aout 2016” in French, meaning “The School of Abraham, August 2016.”

“I certainly came away with a sense of gratefulness for all I have been blessed with, but the villagers felt blessed as well,” Nitz said. “The most profound effect of the trip is that a group of 10 people from Lawrence, Kan., was able to raise enough money to provide an impoverished village with a beautiful brand new school. It is a legacy to leave in this world.”