D.C. Youth Immerse Themselves in Haitian Life
Barrington M. Salmon | , WI Staff Writer | 8/1/2012, 5:18 p.m.
Mandhry said the program here is an off-shoot of one founded in New York City 21 years ago.
"We take underserved kids from D.C. and New York City and work with them during the school year in after-school projects and interactive activities around human rights, social justice, environmental issues and child labor. We introduce them to the world, getting them to understand their place in the world and how the U.S. operates. They're inherently curious about the world anyway."
Mandhry said it's no accident that the program is based in two of the nation's most vibrant cities, one of which serves as the seat of the national government and the crossroads of international affairs, and the other which rivals the District with the United Nations, lobbying groups and a range of international organizations headquartered in New York City.
"Students don't necessarily have the exposure. We're getting them to understand their place in the world. They're really excited. This is the first experience for many of them and we're walking them through the process of [getting] passports and visas."
Javien, 18, an incoming freshman at George Mason University, said he is attracted to human rights issues particularly as it pertains to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities around the world. Another area of interest is women's policy issues, he said.
"It's my first time traveling overseas and I'm ready,"said the Northeast resident, who recently graduated from the Columbia Heights Education Center. "I was hoping to go abroad to get experience and a better understanding of Haiti's culture, language and day-to-day-living. I'll be stepping into a whole new environment and culture. I hope to get a better understanding of the world."
Javien, who has a declared major of global affairs and a minor in conflict analysis and resolution, said he looks forward to being taught about Haitian values and is eager to see how people live their daily lives.
Mandhry knows that his charges will connect the dots.
"I'm really motivated by seeing young people generate insights they didn't have before, such as the relationship between the mineral coltran and their cell phones and computers, and chocolates and child labor in the Ivory Coast," said Mandhry, who has worked with the program for 10 years. "Seeing them make these connections and the role they can play in advocating for change is the most enjoyable part of the job."