Pitt Students Visit The Joshua House During Ministry Trip to Cap Haitien

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.

The students that participated in the trip made a YouTube video that can be viewed at our Media Page. Information about the CCO ministry is available at http://ccojubilee.org.

Student Engineers with a Mission Empower Through Solar Power

Only about one quarter of Haitians have access to power through a weak and unreliable national power grid that was damaged heavily in the earthquake of 2010. Most Haitian businesses rely on generators for their power, which are costly to purchase and operate with the high cost of fuel.

Baylor University Senior Lecturer Brian Thomas is no stranger to this dilemma facing Haiti. As a faculty sponsor for the student organization “Engineers with a Mission” at Baylor, Thomas recently brought a team of engineering students to the Joshua House to install solar panels at the IDADEE Orphanage. Once operational, the panels will provide enough solar power to enable the orphanage, the school and the Joshua House to significantly reduce usage of their current generator and utilize solar power for the majority of day-to-day, average electrical use at the nine-acre compound.

This was the first time that Baylor University students visited the Joshua House, but it was Professor Thomas’ seventh trip to Haiti, as he has taken part in numerous projects with the student engineering organization.

“Every year a team of students from Engineers with a Mission travels somewhere to do a project. The idea is that we partner with an organization that is already doing good things and try to support them in their efforts,” explained Thomas. “We like to serve out of the gifts and talents that we have been given by the Lord; we have some technical ability in the area of solar off-grid electricity systems which is exactly what was needed at IDADEE.”

Thomas learned about the needs of IDADEE and the Joshua House through a colleague at Baylor who made contact with the Pittsburgh Kids’ Foundation and the effort grew from there. Thomas traveled to the Joshua House in December, where he met up with Pittsburgh Kids’ Foundation President Brad Henderson, to assess the viability of installing solar panels at IDADEE.

“We determined that we could install a large array of solar panels that would charge a large battery bank. That battery bank will then serve as a source of energy for the compound,” said Thomas. “We also had the added benefit of bringing students along and enabling them to see something they have never seen before, experience a new culture, see how projects are done, and possibly learn a new language. Most of all these students get to do a very real project for a very real client that will directly benefit from their efforts.”

Thomas plans to return to the Joshua House this summer to conduct training for the IDADEE staff, to teach them how to properly maintain the panels and batteries, conservation techniques and possible expansion of the system.

To view a video about the project, visit our media page.