Taylor Smith ’13
Senior Taylor Smith is always looking for a new challenge. A photo in a Trinity professor’s office of volunteers in Haiti captivated her attention and she set her sights on volunteering there. Her experience was indeed challenging and, unexpectedly, life-changing. In the midst of devastation, she was inspired by the faith and optimism of young children.
The Haiti volunteer program is sponsored by the Religious of Jesus and Mary. After months of preparation and a lengthy application process, Taylor was accepted as one of six volunteers to serve for one month in Haiti, helping to re-establish some semblance of normalcy to the island that is still ravaged from the effects of an earthquake in 2010.
Taylor’s work site was located three hours north of Port-Au-Prince, in Gros-Morne. Although her classes in international development as an international affairs major helped to prepare her for the experience, she was sobered to see such complete devastation even two years after the disaster, and her heart broke for the people in the countryside. “The streets are covered in garbage. There is no trash disposal so people resort to fires to burn the trash,” Taylor said. “Most of the people bathe in the river and have to filter their own water. There is no electricity or running water.”
Despite the devastation, Taylor saw the glimmer of hope in the young children of Haiti. She was delighted to find that she, along with 20 other volunteers from all around the world, would be in charge of running a summer camp for children ages 7-11. The joyful spirit of Camp Claudine quickly won Taylor over, from the children’s bright shirts with “We still know how to dream” emblazoned in French to the raucous soccer games the children played. She was also moved by the gatherings that featured local pastors and artisans as speakers. “Religion is a huge part of the children’s culture. They prayed numerous times a day and were so grateful and happy to have the volunteers there,” Taylor explained. The volunteers participated in nightly reflections as well. “We discussed the importance of being compassionate, open and tolerant. We really wanted to take the time to listen to the people of Haiti and see what they needed the most. We didn’t want to assume we knew what was best for them.”
“I would recommend this trip to all Trinity women. It was such a great opportunity to give back and also to utilize so much of what I have been learning in my coursework at Trinity. I would go back in a heartbeat if given the chance. This experience made me so grateful, happy and appreciative of what I have,” Taylor reflected.
Taylor, who is from Maine, is exploring what her next steps will be after she graduates in May. She co-founded the Students for Environmental Responsibility club on campus and has always been interested in working for an environmental nonprofit organization. However, after her transformative experience in Haiti, she is discovering a new world of opportunities. Whichever path she chooses, she knows she will always be seeking new challenges.
A Trinity education instills the values of community service and social justice as part of the liberal arts foundation that will serve Trinity graduates throughout their lives.