College students spending spring break in the Caribbean often means warm sunny beaches and wild noisy parties. But for nine Greek students from a half dozen U.S. universities, spring break meant helping poor families in a Haitian village get better access to clean drinking water.
Nick Johnson, an InterVarsity staff member who works with fraternity and sorority students at Georgia State and Emory Universities, first organized the trip last year and returned with another group this year. “Alternative spring breaks are popular now and Greeks are big on community service so it’s an attractive thing to them,” Nick said.
The idea was to give Greek students the opportunity to study Biblical concepts like mercy and justice in a cross cultural environment. In practical terms it meant laying PVC pipelines so that residents of the village of Neply don’t have to go to the community well for water; the water now comes to their homes.
One of the unique things about this trip is that the U.S. fraternity and sorority members worked with a fraternity of Neply residents. Several years ago a student from Florida launched a fraternity in Neply as a unique way of overcoming poverty. Even though the Neply fraternity isn’t connected to a school, it’s based on fraternal concepts such as serving others. “It’s humbling to see them travel to poor villages and hand out rice when they could be recipients themselves,” Nick said.
Helping improve the standard of living in the impoverished village is a worthy goal. But helping college students understand what the Bible teaches about poverty is also an important component of the InterVarsity experience. The students analyzed four lessons taken from the 18th and 19th chapters of Luke’s Gospel. One student wrote later, “The Bible studies we did every morning were challenging and very relevant to what we were doing in Haiti. We were able to see Jesus speak about issues dealing with the poor as well as see Jesus speaking to rich men like Zacheus who, when they met Jesus, were transformed and gave their possessions to serve the poor.”
As a result of the trip, one student from the University of Georgia made a decision to follow Jesus. Three other students decided they wanted to do more to serve the poor after they graduate from college.
Attendees at the annual North Carolina Greek conference, in Charlotte last year and Greensboro this year, have given more than $4,000 towards the Neply project. Most of the money has gone towards purchase of the PVC pipe that is then installed by the students.
“The idea of connecting American Greek students with this other Greek organization in Haiti sounded like an amazing opportunity,” Nick said. So far it has worked well, for both the residents of Neply and for the Greek students who have discovered that the Bible is still relevant for dealing with the problems of this world.
You can make a direct financial donation to support InterVarsity’s Haiti Global Project following this link.