Dartmouth alternative spring break trip to Samán

June 12, 2008 at 12:44 pm 1 comment

During March 2008, 11 Dartmouth College students and two faculty spent 10 days living and working in Barrio Samán, a predominantly Haitian village in the north-coast town of Monte Llano. Many of the town’s inhabitants used to work in sugarcane, but the recent decline of the sugar industry has left many of them without work and struggling to make ends meet. This, the first student trip to Samán, proved an extraordinary success and positive experience both for the community and for the students.

With money raised from two Haitian Art Shows at Dartmouth (the art largely came from painters who live in Samán), the students and community members worked together to build a Community Center and a small Community Park. While Samán has numerous groups and organizations, they have lacked a communal space to come together for meetings. Until now, meetings for the Samán Fútbol Club, the women’s group (Mujeres Luchadoras), and the Samán Development Organization (ODS) had all been held outdoors. The Community Center will serve the village for years to come as a space open to all sorts of events – from meetings to informal gatherings to health and education workshops to funerals and birthday parties. The park, meanwhile, provides a communal outdoor space for people to relax and for kids to play. During the trip, students also led HIV prevention and life skills classes for youth in a nearby batey and conducted a health census in Samán.

Building on the trip’s success, a group from Dartmouth will be returning in March 2009 to work on the next community projects identified by ODS, and a group from the University of Vermont will be helping to start a community garden in January 2009. This trip truly helped grow the relationship between Dartmouth and Samán, which began in Winter 2007 through the Fútbol Para la Vida program, and created the capacity for other groups to collaborate. The trip was supported by the William Jewett Tucker Foundation.

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