In an effort to improve third-world literacy, sophomore Ruthie Shenoy traveled to Baie-Trinnette, Haiti to build a school for the local community. She organized the philanthropic trip through the nonprofit organization BuildOn, whose mission is to “empower villages to take the lead in bringing education to their communities.”
Over the course of seven days, she helped in the construction of a concrete foundation, along with preliminary stone walling for the school. She completed a variety of laborious tasks, ranging from digging dirt to mixing concrete. Due to the remoteness of the community, Shenoy had to walk over two miles to find water to mix the concrete, which she carried on her head. With the help of eleven other students and the local community, they completed over seventy percent of the building’s construction.
Shenoy’s efforts amounted to the construction of three classrooms, directly benefiting the youth of the local community. Before the new school was built, according to Shenoy, the Haitianchildren often walked over two hours to attend school in a distant town. The new classrooms provided a local alternative, allowing easier access to education.
The school, however, came with
a caveat: the local community had to promise to include both girls and boys in their educational program. This ensured the dissolution of the educational inequality faced by many Haitian women.
However, the trip was more than construction-based; it offered a deep cultural connection with the local Haitians. In the afternoons, Shenoy spent time with her host family, learning about their vastly different lifestyle. They discussed their difficulties and problems, talking for hours aboutordinary subjects. Through this, Shenoy acquired a tremendously different perspective of the world.
Looking back, Shenoy reflected on her trip’s impact: “There are so many things that we don’t see in this world that we take for granted.” By immersing herself in a different culture, Shenoy found a new appreciation for her own community.