Every spring, Northwestern College sends out more than 200 students, faculty and staff on Spring Service Projects (SSP’s). The sites can be both domestic or international, with teams going to places like California, New York, Florida or the Netherlands.
This year, a team of 12 students and two adult leaders were preparing to go to Haiti until they received some troubling news.
The U.S. Department of State, through the Bureau of Consular Affairs, provides a travel advisory scale with listings one through four. The fourth level – which Haiti currently sits at – is titled, “Do Not Travel.”
The travel advisory shifted from a Level three to a Level four on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. Because of this, Patrick Hummel, Director of Missions at Northwestern College, along with the Risk Assessment Team, decided to relocate the team with just less than three weeks to go before spring break.
There is no doubt this was the right decision, as reports that come out of the country of Haiti only continue to intensify. There was an Emergency Notification that went out from the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Feb.17, 2019. Titled “Haiti Unrest,” it notes that “the U.S. government ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their family members.”
The reason for the unrest in Haiti started as a political crisis, taking the lives of at least three people so far, according to National Public Radio. Since the 2010 earthquake, the government of Haiti has artificially kept gas prices low and they very recently increased prices by incredible amounts – as much as 50 percent. In reaction to this, many Haitians barricaded roads and burned tires. Protests and riots only increased in impact from there.
NPR Host Ari Shaprio noted “over the weekend, people took to the streets protesting a spike in gas prices. The prime minister and members of his cabinet stepped down.”
The protests and riots are unpredictable, so it’s hard to say just how safe traveling there would be. Because the Haiti SSP team is still eager to serve, they are able to join another international SSP team. The team going to Croc, Mexico works with an organization called YouthFront, and they have agreed to take the two combined teams over spring break. The new Mexico SSP team is now made up of 28 members.
This program is led by locals and provides kids in Croc with fun activities, classroom time and games. The team will be doing manual labor as need is revealed to them through Youthfront. They will also be doing many home visits and getting to know members of the community.