Ohio Wesleyan University seniors Kelsey Ullom and Rachel Vinciguerra will be packing their bags for Haiti after they graduate. Beginning in June, they will serve for one year as volunteer coordinators for the Pwoje Espwa orphanage in Les Cayes, Haiti.
Ohio Wesleyan’s connection with Pwoje Espwa (“Project Hope”) began through alumnus Doug Dittrick, OWU Class of 1955, who has played an integral role in operating the facility. In 2010, this connection inspired creation of the HaitiOWU Initiative, which has sent four teams of students, staff, and faculty to volunteer at Espwa over the past four years.
Ullom, an international studies major from Delaware, Ohio, and Vinciguerra, a history major from Reading, Massachusetts, have traveled to Espwa through these OWU teams, and say their visits resonated deeply with them.
“After spending a week with the kids last May, I made a commitment to myself to stay involved with the organization,” Vinciguerra says. “I didn’t want my short trip to be a one-time thing. I wanted to be a more significant part of helping Espwa achieve its mission in whatever way I could.”
Founded in 1998, Espwa currently houses, feeds, and educates about 500 children, and an additional 200 come to the complex from surrounding villages for school every day. Espwa is committed to helping this young generation of Haitians grow to be active and aware citizens, hardworking leaders, and self-sufficient young adults.
Espwa realizes and appreciates the capacity the youth of Haiti hold that one day will help to rebuild the nation.
“Espwa’s thriving spirit of hope and progress is what inspired me to be a bigger part of the Espwa community through this position,” Ullom says.
The primary responsibilities of the two volunteer coordinators will include arranging travel and accommodations for volunteer groups coming to the orphanage; coordinating projects for these groups based on their interests and abilities; and serving as their guide through their experience at Espwa.
Espwa is supported by Free the Kids, a 501 (c)(3) nondenominational, nonsectarian foundation based in Greensboro, North Carolina. Free the Kids currently is seeking contributions to help cover room and board and living expenses for Ullom and Vinciguerra.