Haiti is a beautiful country with tremendous challenges. According to the World Bank, Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world with the average worker bringing home just $1,815 per year. Haiti has a long history of political corruption, gang violence, and instability, and many towns have not fully recovered from the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed over 100,000 people and destroyed over 120,000 homes.
To make a long and difficult-to-read story short, the people of Haiti need all the support, empathy, and good counseling they can get. Last winter, we connected with Miranda Phelps, a Maine psychologist and the Dean of the only accredited college of social work in the entire 10,714 square mile island of Haiti. A fellow Waterville resident, Miranda operates Faculte de Travail Social et de Justice Sociale (FTSJS) and is a profoundly passionate advocate for the small college and the people of Haiti. Before the Pandemic, she spent a significant amount of time in Haiti and will be starting to travel again this summer. During the Pandemic, she has worked with the Haitian staff from her home in Maine.
“I was inspired to learn about overseas work at a conference I attended in Denver called Trauma and Trust, Peacebuilding in Ruptured Social Systems in the fall of 2016. I had a strong background in trauma therapy but wanted to know how to get started in the kind of work I was hearing people describe. One of the presenters I met at the conference told me to check out Idealist.org to find a volunteer opportunity, and I learned about an opportunity to teach psychology at a school for social work in Haiti. I made my first trip there in March, 2017 and fell in love with the students. Despite the countless challenges and threats they face on a daily basis, they are smart, funny, and very eager to learn.”
While teaching in May of 2018, the school she was working at fell apart. They had never become accredited, and there were other significant issues that were very troubling to students. Working with her Haitian colleague, Vildens Dorvilier – and consulting with numerous advisors –Miranda was able to create the curriculum for a new social work school, which was accepted as a program of the Episcopal University in Port au Prince. “I became the Dean of FTSJS in the fall of 2018 and it’s been my life’s work ever since.”
While professors previously traveled to teach on campus, the Pandemic forced Miranda and her team to bring all of their FTSJS classes online, which created huge challenges for her students. “We had students trying to attend all of their classes, write all their notes and do all of their homework on their phones,” Miranda says. “Can you imagine trying to do that? I really wanted all of our students to have computers. I talked to someone at Bangor Savings, who told me about give IT. get IT. I called the same day, and when I explained our situation to Jodi she said “Yes, of course we’ll help.” I was thrilled.”
Instead of squinting at their phones and typing with their thumbs, FTSJS students are using refurbished laptops from give IT. get IT. They are able to use applications like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams, take notes in Microsoft Word, and email their homework to their professors.
At give IT. get IT., we’re proud to be helping the future social workers of Haiti. Thanks to our “give IT.” recycling clients, hard-working students are acquiring the skills they need to counsel their neighbors and connect those who are struggling with resources and support. As student Marie Judith Pierre-Saint said in a recent FTSJS newsletter:
Social work is very important in Haiti. Everyone knows that Haiti is a very poor country and that the country is in need of social workers. Trained social workers can see where there is social injustice and know how to advocate for the people. We know what a good life looks like. People can live good lives if they have social workers to advocate for them.
If your business has surplus technology in need of recycling or you know a company that does, please connect with Allen Cornwall, our Technology Reuse and Recycling Advocate at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-749-3431.
If you’d like to support FTSJS students by making a tax-deductible donation to their scholarship fund, CLICK HERE.