Scholarships Help Build Capacity for Young Leaders

Jennifer Lang, Program Director – August 27, 2013
I was so pleased to represent Hope for Haiti at the returnees meeting for scholarship recipients from the USAID grant program, the Scholarships for Education and Economic Development Program (called SEED or SEMENCE, for short.) 24 Haitian students have successfully studied for two years at community colleges throughout the United States, from New York to Oregon, majoring in various fields including quality control, supply chain management, and environmental technology.

Hope for Haiti Program Director Jennifer Lang with students
Hope for Haiti Program Director Jennifer Lang with students

The goal of the USAID SEED scholarships is to build the capacity of young community leaders to make a positive impact in their home country. Scholarships are awarded all throughout Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. The Haitian program shines due to the lack of educational and professional opportunities for students here – particularly in the rural provinces, like the Southern Department, which is home to Hope for Haiti’s programming in education, nutrition, healthcare, and community development.

Most of the scholarship recipients had only returned back to Haiti in June or July of this year, so the summer meeting was the first chance for them to interact as a group. All of the staff and students were so happy to be back together, proud of their accomplishments over the past two years and excited for their new futures.  Gina Nocera, the program coordinator, lead a discussion on re-entry – including the difficulties of reverse culture shock, the need to re-adjust to a home environment without running water or electricity, and the importance of staying motivated. Patrick Chemaly, the program’s director, stressed continued community engagement. “By volunteering with your local church or community, you are putting into action the plans this scholarship helped enable. You are also demonstrating your motivation to a potential employer.”

All of the students had dropped off their curriculum vitae with potential employers, including three who had already secured employment, including with prestigious organizations such as the Haitian Government, the United Nations, Digicel, Brasserie Nationale, and Partners in Health (Zanmi La Sante). The students discussed as a group techniques they had used for follow-up, including specific questions on salary negotiations and how to market their experience. Patrick added, “You are all like sponges – you know how to use computers, learn and do research independently, and adapt to new environments and challenges.”

Hope for Haiti Program Director Jennifer Lang gives her presentation
Hope for Haiti Program Director Jennifer Lang gives her presentation

Hope for Haiti has already proudly invited a SEMENCE alumni to join our team in the South. Jean Herns Dede joined our Healthcare Programs as the Gift In-Kind Program Officer, working to ensure all of our donated medications and supplies are used with optimal efficiency. Herns was a great fit for our staff as he is originally from Les Cayes and wants to give back to his community.

Coordinating with the USAID SEMENCE Program has an important personal value to me. I interned with the Program in administration at Georgetown University’s Center for Intercultural Education and Development (CIED) in Washington, D.C., so it has been wonderful to see the on the ground impact. As our Healthcare Program Director as well as a friend of the SEMENCE Program, I offered advice to students as potential candidates and presented Hope for Haiti’s sustainable programming – including our Infirmary, two reforestation nurseries, and locally-sourced school lunch program. After hearing about our work, many students congratulated the organization and asked to help in their communities or as volunteers! Moreover, we hope that collaboration will be strategic; Hope for Haiti supports three secondary schools as well as one nursing scholarship, and we would love to connect young local community leaders to broadened educational opportunities and resources in the future.

From all of us at Hope for Haiti, congratulations to the SEMENCE students – and good luck!

To learn more about the USAID SEED Program or Georgetown University’s CIED, please visit: