Sixteen Pitt student athletes traveled to Cap Haitien from April 30 to May 6, where they stayed at the Joshua House and assisted at several different locations, including the EBAC orphanage and school, the New Vision Children’s Home, IDADEE orphanage and New Hope Hospital.
Led by Mark Steffey, Campus Minister to Student Athletes through the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) at the University of Pittsburgh, and his colleague Kelly Cooke, the students assisted at the orphanage, school and children’s home with tasks such as painting, cleaning and repairing facilities, teaching English, helping with coursework from first through 10th grade, playing soccer and basketball with local youth ages six through 26.
At the hospital, the students helped to organize its small stock of pharmacy medicines. They also took time to listen and learn about the staff’s hopes for the future. The hospital currently has a staff seven doctors and around 20 nurses that serve a population of more than 200,000.
During their off times, the students supported the local economy by touring the Citadelle, a large castle on the top of the mountain Bonnet a L’Eveque, about 17 miles south of the city, and spent some time at the beach.
This is sixth consecutive year that Pitt students have traveled to Cap Haitien. To date more than 100 students have traveled to the area on mission trips organized by the CCO ministry at the University of Pittsburgh. Steffey, who has coordinated five out of the six trips, first became involved with the efforts in Haiti through the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation 10 years ago.
“Students get involved in our ministry by their choice and also by our initiative. Myself, Kelly Cooke, and Aamir Cobb spend lots of time on campus building relationships with students and coaches – attending practices, sitting with them over coffee or lunch, and supporting them in general,” explained Steffey.
During the school year Steffey and his colleagues have weekly fellowship meetings that are attended by 40-70 students regularly. In the Fall, they invite students to take part in the annual trip to Haiti and each student is responsible for raising $1100 to fund his or her trip.
“The impact (of taking part of the trip to Haiti) is multi-faceted. It helps them gain a new perspective on the world around them. It makes them grateful for the life they have. It helps them gain a vision for using their lives long-term for the sake of others. It helps them step outside of their comfort zone. It also strips them of their identity as an athlete and helps them gain an identity as a person rather than a product,” said Steffey. “We do talk to them often about what happens after college and getting ready to use their lives to impact the world with love, justice, and mercy. We have a spiritual focus on the trip and there is an increased openness because we are away together and students let down their guard. Students grow in their knowledge of God and of His heart for those less fortunate and it awakens in them a greater sense of life purpose.”
According to Steffey, many of the students who have participated still remain in contact with many of the Haitians they met via Facebook, and some have even coordinated return trips later in life. One student, Mike Capara, coordinated a student-led trip in 2015.