By Ebony Walmsley, New Haven Register, on March 13, 2014—
“When Nina Brandi left Haiti two years ago, she knew one day she wanted to return to shine a light on the Restavec Freedom Alliance, a group that works to stop human trafficking.
And now, the Quinnipiac University student’s personal experience has prompted a trip back to Haiti — and one she hopes will change the lives of the classmates going with her.
Brandi, along with 19 Quinnipiac University students and one alumni, left for the impoverished nation on March 8 during their scheduled spring break to engage with children who are at risk for human trafficking.
Brandi is a nursing student at Quinnipiac.
After talking about the Restavec Freedom Alliance and suggesting a few of her peers take an informal trip with her, Brandi said she was overwhelmed with the interest.
As interest continued to grow, Quinnipiac’s Department of Cultural and Global Education teamed up with Brandi and transformed the trip to an official university service trip.
“I hope the students embrace the culture and experience just as much as I have and still do. I hope they fall in love with the country and its people, especially the children of RFA (Restavec Freedom Alliance),” Brandi said. “There are no words to explain the joy I feel, to be taking 19 students and one alumni to Haiti.”
Diane Ariza, associate vice president for Academic Affairs and chief diversity officer for Quinnipiac, said the administration already had discussed sending students to Haiti. After Brandi encouraged Quinnipiac’s staff to explore the program she worked with, Ariza said she and other faculty made the trip.
“Nina encouraged us to go and visit her agency (RFA). When we went, we were really excited coming back and saying it was a great place to work,” Ariza said.
Brandi made her first trip to Haiti two years ago, a trip she said changed her life.
“I was on my way to Port Au Prince with Restavec Freedom Alliance. I had always been involved in service trips in high school, but this trip was like no other. The poverty of Haiti could not be compared to anything I had ever seen before. I truly felt so helpless,” Brandi said.
RFA is a nonprofit organization which supports 34 children in two homes in the cities of Chantal and Ducis, near Port Au Prince.
During the trip, students will assist with teaching English and help with science experiments. University students will use training material from Free the Slaves, a nonprofit organization which fights to end slavery.
Throughout her trip, Brandi observed the devastation among Haitian children.
“Many of the children had lived horrific pasts. They were abused physically, sexually, and verbally. Luckily, some children had been saved before they even entered into the Restavec system, but that was not the case for all of them. This made me think I knew exactly what I was there to do,” Brandi said
Ariza said she hopes students return from their trip thinking like Brandi.
“I hope they come back and say ‘we’ve learned something that we didn’t know. I want them to come back and want to do more in their own backyards,” Ariza said.
For Brandi, the hope her peers take to the culture as she did is a high expectation.
“I hope that they take each moment as a special one and remember it for the rest of their lives. I hope they know that they are impacting the lives of so many,” Brandi said.
Call Ebony Walmsley at 203-789-5734. Have questions, feedback or ideas about our news coverage? Connect directly with the editors of the New Haven Register at AskTheRegister.com.”
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