Do FFA’ers want to serve in Haiti?
AMES – Service learning projects are a fundamental part of FFA.
Throught them, its members learn to get involved inside and outside their communities, engaging them in educational processes and learning to solve real-life problems.
Service learning projects also teach democracy and citizenship. Students become active, contributing citizens and community members through the services they perform.
After an earthquake struck the country of Haiti in 2010, ultimately destroying 300,000 buildings and making 1 million people homeless in a single day, the Sioux Central FFA chapter, in Sioux Rapids, began coming up with ways to bring aid to those in need.
With the help of the Global Compassion Network and other supporters, the chapter is facing its third summer traveling to Haiti to help build homes and assist at an orphanage.
“In 2012, the chapter decided not only to raise funds for a home, but to actually go down there and build it,” said Sioux Central FFA chapter member Conner Olson.
Four students and two chaperones traveled in 2012, followed in 2013, by three teams of 10 FFA members from across the U.S.
The Global Compassion Network, which is based in Eagle Grove, is a group committed to disaster relief both internationally and domestically, led by Dennis Anderson.
The homes the group constructs for the Haitians are a Sukup Safe-T-Home, which is a highly-modified 18-foot steel grain bin.
According to Sioux Central FFA, the home has a double roof system that functions as a heat shield, and rainfall collection system.
It has built-in solar panels that power a set of LED lights. The anchor system uses three ballast boxes around the outside of the home.
The boxes can also be used as a raised garden.
The Safe-T-Home has been tested to endure up to 130-mile per hour winds and has a zero seismic load making it practically earthquake proof.
The cost for a standard 18-foot Safe-T-Home is $5,700, with a life expectancy of more than 75 years.
They can be assembled in about 10 hours with a team of four people.
Once the family has learned some transferable work skills, such as sewing or cleaning, for example, and find employment where they can become more self-sufficient, they will move out of the home and another family in need will be brought in.
Olson said FFA’ers and chaperones build the homes, and help with projects at a nearby girls’ orphanage.
Carly Huber, a Sioux Central FFA’er, who has been to Haiti twice – the first year for 10 days and the second year for almost a month – said not only was the visit an eye-opening experience, but it also helped her make a decision on a major in college next year and a career path she is wanting to pursue.
“We take so many things for granted that we have here at home,” Huber said. “We are so blessed here, and I take that to heart every time.”
Her experiences in Haiti, Huber said, has led her to major in English as a second language to become certified and eventually travel the world and teach English.
“It has been a privilege to meet the people I have down there,” said Huber. “There is so much more to see than just living here, and there are a lot of opportunities that can open up for people by going.”
If traveling to Haiti or another foreign country sounded appealing to any in the audience, Huber said, they should be fully prepared for the trip.
“I recommend to people to be prepared for just how much different it is there and that it is not home,” said Huber. “It is not bad, but not better, it’s just different.”
Huber said you cannot compare Haiti to the United States.
“If you do, you won’t be able to enjoy the experience,” she said.
Huber suggests taking little steps to build up the courage to help others outside the U.S., such as with local service projects.
“You can never over-prepare,” she said. “Think long and hard about why you want to go and that you truly want to go.
“You have to sacrifice a lot; there aren’t the luxuries we have here like working toilets and showers.”
Some ways Huber suggests preparing for such a trip is to try giving up one’s personal time – get used to not having any time alone and giving up technology for a while to get accustomed to that sort of lifestyle.
Huber said suggested youths find a variety of outdoor games to play or other ways to become accustomed to being outdoors.
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