Before the start of the fall semester, three FIU Law students wanted to do some good. So, they took to the skies and traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to share the mission of FIU Law with the children living in the Wayom Timoun orphanage.
Law students and Caribbean Student Bar Association (CSBA) members Jeremy Thompson, Lisa Smith and Djenane Fanfan orchestrated the four day trip, which also included FIU alumnus Marvin Afolayan ’13.
The trip is the second of its kind for Thompson and Smith who traveled to Quibdo, Colombia, this past spring. Thompson has been inspired to make these trips through his involvement with the non-profit organization, Health through Walls. The organization helps Caribbean, African and other resource-poor countries implement replicable models and sustainable improvements in healthcare services within their penitentiaries.
Prior to landing, the team organized a clothing and school supplies drive and partnered with ACTS – a children’s home in Fort Lauderdale – to collect baby and toddler items.
For this trip, the team opted out of staying in a hotel and instead made other arrangements.
“This trip around we decided to stay at the orphanage so we could be surrounded by the children and get a better one-on-one connection with them.” Smith said. “Admittedly, it sounds strange, but I was a blank canvas and open to the possibilities of seeing and expecting anything. With that in mind, living in the conditions of the orphanage with no running water and limited electricity was definitely a life-changing experience and one I will never forget.”
A native of Haiti, Fanfan experienced her homeland in a whole new light.
“Although I lived in Haiti the majority of my young life, I wasn’t exposed to many of the places we visited or understood how the Haitian system worked,” she explained. “I have to say that my years studying at FIU Law, working as a Guardian ad Litem and visiting the orphanage got me to think about the types services these children need.”
During their time, the team presented information about the U.S. legal system, shared information about FIU Law and connected with a local attorney who they discussed comparative law with.
For Thompson who hopes to coordinate more tours – even after he graduates – these trips have become his passion. He’s tentatively dubbed the program The International Human Rights Service tour and wants to encourage more FIU Law students to join him.
“As a result of the world historically labeling blacks as inferior, blacks today still live in some of the poorest areas around the world. I made this trip and have dedicated my life to making similar trips to do my part in uplifting the African-Diaspora across the world,” he said. “The people I met in Port-au-Prince and Quibdo are similar. All the people I interacted with were very friendly and well-educated.”
The students attended a church service, enjoyed the beautiful waters of Wahoo beach – where they ate fresh crab and conch – and took a tour of Port-au-Prison’s national prison.
Smith sums up the exchange, “all in all, it was a great opportunity and a unique way to get pro bono hours and spend the tail-end of the summer break.”