Community Engagement in Haiti

Washington, DC


I am writing today on behalf of one of our Haitian participants from the Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) program for Public Policy and Government Leadership. Please find Pascal’s story and reflection below:

Port-au-Prince, November 25th 2013

Pascal at VCU
Pascal at VCU


SUSI 2013 Alumni

My name is Pascal Valbrune I am a SUSI 2013 Alumni, student leaders in Public Policy and Government Leadership. Study of the United States Institute is one of the most prestigious US State Department exchange programs, whose aim is to provide young undergraduate on Public Policy and Government Leadership and to promote mutual understanding between the people in Haiti and the United States. It was administered by Meridian International Center in Washington, and I had the opportunity to attend the prestigious Virginia Commonwealth University located in Richmond, Virginia where I learn so many things about US history and Governments, participated in government internships and created a lot of good memories during my six academic weeks.

Being an exchange student allowed me to discover new aspect of myself and the world around us, I built friendships, learned to respect others point of view and helped me understand the true meaning of diversity, and one of the most important things SUSI developed in me is the sense of leadership and initiative.

I was really impressed by the leadership and the sense of responsibility of Government Officials to serve their community. I remember how shocked I was during one of my internship at Henrico county Sherriff Court. I was very impress by how fast the process was to deliberate the verdict. In my country a person can go over 3 years or more in custody before a verdict is reached. I was amazed during my job shadowing on Capitol Hill in DC by the governmental structure and the process for a bill to become a law.

I am truly grateful for this experience that opened my eyes and changed me forever. I learned many things about US democracy and had the opportunity to meet and work with some government officials and those are meeting that inspire me in the future and for the initiative that I’ll have to take here in my country. My experience in volunteer activities in the US makes me think that everyone has an obligation to serve their communities and make a difference in other people’s lives. I’ve learned so much about US culture by spending a weekend with an American family. They are great people and each minutes spent with them was very informative on a social and cultural level.

Ellis Island, NYC
Ellis Island, NYC

Since I got home, I feel more involved with that spirit of leadership and want to do something that will positively affect my community. This idea keeps rolling around in my head and thoughts that is why we, the Haitian and Dominican SUSI participants, are working on a community project. We are motivated to be a part of the reforestation of Haiti and having brought together the representatives of two countries that share the same island (Dominican Republic and Haiti) so that we can work and accomplish huge things. We want the youth to know that they have to preserve the world they are living in and to be a part of the change. Haiti has less than 1% of forest coverage and is vulnerable during the storm season that occurs from June to November every year. Our goal is to educate and empower the youth of Haiti, during this school year, about deforestation and its impacts on our communities and countries sustainable safety. We want them to understand the importance of taking care of the environment for the future by teaching and working with them on recycling and reforestation projects, which are issues that are seriously affecting Haiti nowadays.

SUSI Participants at Meridian
SUSI Participants at Meridian

I am also actually working as an “Administrative Agent Customer Information” at Unicarte which is the credit card department of UNIBANK a Commercial Bank here in Haiti. While preparing for my graduation on January 2014 for my Bachelor degree in Business Administration.

Study aboard was a very great experience that really made me a better person. And I can definitely say this was the best summer of my life. Many thanks to those entities that in one way or another have to contribute to the success of this program, and make it the most wonderful experience of my life, the US Embassy in Haiti, US Department of State, VCU, and Meridian International Center. Once again thank you for this opportunity.

Pascal Valbrune