Greensboro, NC — Honors student Tatiana Walker will prepare a student-run project aiding Haitian orphans, following a recent trip to the disaster-stricken country with the Haiti Support Project, pilgrimage and assessment delegation hosted by the Institute for the Black World.
Moved by the horror of the lingering effects of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January, Bennett College honors student Tatiana Walker decided to organize a student-run project to help children left orphaned.
The 19-year-old junior and psychology major at the women’s college in Greensboro, N.C., was among a 17-person delegation that traveled to Haiti in October to lay the groundwork for creating a support system to assist Haitians in developing a self-sufficient infrastructure and sustainable economy.
Walker’s goal on the trip was to gain an understanding of conditions in Haiti that would inform future community services projects on campus. She spoke of her arrival in Haiti and quick realization that conditions there were as dire as she had been told in pre-travel briefings.
“It was definitely different,” Walker said. “Right away, there were people approaching me to help me with my bags. It was a means of getting a tip. Before we got in Haiti, we were made clear of the conditions that they were in. Even those who didn’t help had hands out. It really opened my eyes to the bad shape that they were in.”
Her hotel in Haiti underscored the problems residents face. “There was a lizard in my room and the water pressure wasn’t great but we had air conditioning and a tv. There was no soap or wash clothes. I had to remind myself where I was.”
Walker was able to understand how the earthquake impacted the youth of Haiti during a visit to a camp named Oasis, a tent community that housed 40 orphaned young girls, many of her age.
Having a student tour guide who didn’t speak English, Walker was led through a camp that lacked basics such as clothing and beds, and running water. Many of the residents that she encountered survived due to their ability to barter for necessities or their knowledge of the English language, which allowed them to communicate with outsiders.
Meeting teenage girls who suffered from extreme malnutrition and other medical ailments, Walker recognized the severity of the conditions in the nation.
“I had an emotional breakdown,” Walker said. “The things that we complain about are irrelevant compared to their loss. We need to be more appreciative. What we have can be taking away in a minute.”
Walker was invited on the trip by Dr. Julianne Malveaux, economist, author, and president of Bennett College for Women.
Dr. Malveaux, who has initiated a Center for Global Studies at the school, was adamant in her selection of Walker. She was most impressed with Walker’s ability to maintain leadership abilities despite the conditions surrounding her.
“The imperative of the Bennett Global Studies program is to expose our students to challenges and experiences around the world,” Dr. Malveaux said. “It was a great opportunity to join the Haiti Support Project and bring Tatiana along. It was her first time leaving the country and I was very impressed. Tatiana is a very fluent global traveler. She has set the bar for what Bennett students should do when they travel the globe.”
The missionary trip will serve as the foundation of Walker’s on-campus service project entitled Adopt-A- Child, through which she will pair Bennett Belles with young girls of the Oasis Camp. Her goal is to provide the victims with care packages containing food, snacks, and hygiene products.
With the help of 50 student volunteers, Walker will led the efforts to continue the outreach to the camp, including letters with words of support. “We are connected,” Walker said. “Certain things are universal. Those students do the same things that we do at home. They are poor but they are human. We need to help across the board.”
With future career goals to work with the children with mental, behavioral and emotional disorders, Walker believes that this trip expended her interested in psychology.
“A lot of these children more than likely already experienced emotional trauma,” Walker said. “When they grow up, they will continue to have these problems. I am hoping to obtain more international experience working with children in poverty to benefit my career.”
Bennett College for Women, located in Greensboro, NC, is a small, private, historically black institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Bennett offers a liberal arts education conducive to excellence in scholarly pursuits; preparation for leadership roles in the workplace, society, and the world; and lifelong learning in a technologically advanced, complex global society. For more information, visit www.bennett.edu.