Two LHS students, counselor head to Haiti to help impoverished children
By Peter Jasinski
email@example.com Reprinted from the Sentinel and Enterprise
LEOMINSTER — At 2:30 a.m. Thursday, Leominster High School seniors Morgan Tait and Rafaela Lopes embarked on a trip that was three years in the making.
The pair, along with guidance counselor Carol Robison, were bound for Haiti, where they will spend their weeklong February school vacation.
“I’m very anxious to get on the plane and just get there already,” Tait said Wednesday, as she counted the hours before she could make her way to the airport. “We’re expecting this to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The excitement is not based around the prospect of fleeing the New England winter for a Caribbean island, but from the fact that the trip is the culmination of work poured into a United Way Youth Venture called Go Make a Difference.
As the venture’s five core members explain, they view the word “Go” as being an acronym for “Global Opportunity,” with the trip to Haiti serving as the first step in finally going global.
Until now, Go Make a Difference has operated primarily in Leominster, working with children of homelessand displaced families though the community dinner at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster as well as St. Mark’s Episcopal Church’s Community Cafe.
Go Make a Difference has also held monthly group birthday parties for local children, which have attracted hundreds of people.
“When we don’t have birthday parties, we still like to go and volunteer just to stay involved,” said Lopes, who also said the success of the community birthday parties has inspired other organizations, including Fitchburg State University, to host similar parties.
“We were pretty proud that we were able to inspire other groups to do the same,” said Lopes.
The group has also done work with Habitat for Humanity and held fundraisers to help local families.
“Last Martin Luther King Day we did a clothing drive and a breakfast,” said Jessica Willard, another group members. “Everyone came in to eat, then we had a store of everything from the clothing drive we had held. They were able to come through and pick what they wanted.”
Since 2014, student volunteers of Go Make a Difference have been putting together the donations, grant funding, fundraising proceeds, and money from the United Way to pay for the trip to Haiti.
While the money is obviously a necessity in getting there, the students see their experiences in working with local children as being just as valuable.
According to Lopes, “We wanted to do it, so we would have that experience working with kids.”
For volunteers like Nicolas Teixeira, the experience has also led to more personal benefits.
“I joined and I started to interact. These specific situations have opened to a bigger understanding and appreciation of others and what they’re going through,” he said.
Tait, Lopez and Robison are making their journey with the assistance of a group from Our Lady of the Lake Church that regularly takes trips to Haiti.
While in Haiti, Tait said they will work with children at clinics, nutrition centers, and schools in the community of Aquino, not far from the capital of Port-au-Prince.
They will also be taking with them 14 full suitcases of school supplies, food, and clothing they helped collected with the parishioners of Our Lady of the Lake Church.