February 16, 2015
By Alex Rothstein '15
Student travelers of the CSB/SJU non-profit group Square One truly experienced the mantra of "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime," when they visited Haiti in December.
"One of the things I learned while I was there was the difference between a hand out and a hand up," Josh Eggebraaten, a SJU senior and trip co-leader, said.
"One of the orphanage owners gave a lady he knew a big 50-pound bag of rice because she needed it to eat," Eggebraaten said. "But ... she turned around and sold the entire bag of rice and just took the money and went off. After that he [the orphanage owner] ... wanted to give them the means to help themselves. Instead of handing out money, he'll hand out resources."
Five members of Square One and Br. Nick Kleespie, OSB, traveled to Haiti over semester break to start a small business venture at an orphanage.
According to the CIA World Factbook, "Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80 percent of the population living under the poverty line."
The student group partnered with an orphanage in central Haiti. The orphanage got to choose which business venture it wanted to implement, and chose two mobile chicken coops because they could sell the eggs for profit and wouldn't have to rely solely on external donations to keep it afloat.
This venture will also provide the children with a vocational learning opportunity and encourage entrepreneurship by allowing them to run a small business.
"Our mission was mainly to build a small business that could serve as vocational learning for the [orphan] students as well as serve as a source of income to make the orphanage self-sustaining," said Lauren Hayes, CSB senior and trip co-leader. "That's one of the orphanage's biggest missions and that's one of our biggest missions. That's why we found this partnership extremely valuable."
"That's another thing too that I really liked about Square One," added Eggebraaten. "Instead of just going in and implementing what we here think would be the best or the most helpful, we spend a lot of time listening to what their goals are and what their needs are. That's how we came up with the chicken coop idea."
In the Grand Savane region, eggs are not a common food item. Citizens have to take two motorcycle rides (like taxi rides) and a tap-tap (another form of transportation) in order to get eggs from a different village.
"This [chicken coop venture] is a new source of eggs for them," Hayes said. "People are paying maybe one cent more for a convenience factor which all goes back to the orphanage."
From life-long lessons to eye-opening experiences, the CSB/SJU students came back with so much more than what they left with.
"I don't ever think I'll forget the last night we were there, a pastor told us his whole story of being an orphan and how he got to where he is today and basically the unifying theme was education is what saved him," Hayes said. "That is something that I really took away from that and I was happy that our project addressed that partially. The chicken coop will act as a lesson in entrepreneurship as well as a lesson in raising chickens and vocational learning so I would never forget that and how much I should value my education here at CSB/SJU."
Square One plans to continue their partnership with the Haitian orphanage.
"We're maintaining this relationship and hoping to move forward with a new idea sometime next year and send a group back because this is a mutual beneficial relationship we found here, and an organization that has their hearts in the same place as ours," Hayes said.
"I am excited for Bennies and Johnnies to have the same experience we did. It couldn't have been any better," Eggebraaten said. "It was so positive, the people there were so nice. Our group was great and Haiti is beautiful. We got a lot of hard work done."
Square One found a lasting partnership and has seen the success they were hoping for. Since the students left, the orphanage has been selling out of eggs every day.