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During the 2011 Spring Break, two students took time to fortify children in Haiti as the country struggles with the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake.

Senior Serge Okogo traveled to the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, the area hardest hit by the earthquake. He spent most of the week visiting the Institute Montfort, a three-school system for deaf and deaf-blind students, ages 3 to 20. St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children was another important stop on his itinerary. Okogo, who is double majoring in international government and business, traveled to these schools to learn about issues that influence educational opportunities for deaf children in Haiti. Okogo also interacted with key players working on disability rights issues. He met with the assistant to Haiti’s secretary of state for the inclusion of people with disabilities and provided leadership training to leaders in the Haitian deaf community.

Senior Courtney Nugent’s work on behalf of children in Haiti was an extension of her course work in her General Studies Capstone class, “Human Rights in Haiti.” The biology major and criminology minor spent a day of her spring break at the Aurora, Ill. location of Feed My Starving Children, a faith-based organization that provides food aid. That day, Nugent and other volunteers filled 103 boxes with enough food to feed 61 Haitian children for a year. Nugent returned to finalize a service-learning project to raise funds for Institute Montfort.

“These hardworking students could have relaxed during their Spring Break but instead decided to pursue their passion for service and social justice,” said Dr. Cristina Berdichevsky, who is teaching the “Human Rights in Haiti” course. Berdichevsky applauded Okogo and Nugent for being “part of the solution,” and for planning to continue to help. Okogo will report on his work on behalf of deaf children in developing countries at the Clinton Global Initiative University in San Diego, Calif. Nugent is looking into volunteer work in Haiti after she graduates this May.

–Rhea Yablon Kennedy

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