Sociology Professor Returns from Service Trip to Haiti
September 15, 2010
Just weeks before beginning her appointment as an assistant professor of sociology at the College, Janese Free led a team of doctors and physical therapists on a weeklong service trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to aid a country still reeling from the catastrophic earthquake that struck the region last January.
While the medical team spent the week of August 15th volunteering at Haiti's King's Hospital, Free spent five days touring disaster sites with members of World Relief, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to responding directly to the world's "most complex humanitarian crises" through collaboration with local churches. The group's responsibilities during this "vision trip" were to assess where funds donated from U.S. churches could be best utilized, specifically seeking communities that were hit the hardest on January 12th by the earthquake. Free represented Park Street Church in Boston on what was her third trip to Haiti - her first since the natural disaster.
"Going back this time I knew what to expect in terms of the poverty that exists in Haiti, but I was not prepared for the scope of the devastation," said Free. "There are piles of rubble everywhere you go, some three-to-four stories high. It is overwhelming. We traveled in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas, sometimes driving two-to-three hours at a time, and we would still be amidst the devastation."
Free's congregation is making a 10-year commitment to partner with World Relief to help Haiti's recovery through rebuilding communities and creating jobs. Free, who is a sociologist specializing in crime and justice, remains personally committed to improving the issues of poverty and victimization that exist in Haiti and other parts of the world. She remains committed to the long-term redevelopment of the country and hopes to be a part of another trip going back to Haiti in January.
"I fell in love with the people of Haiti, their resilience and strength years ago," she said. "They are rebuilding and recovering, but you can see the impact the trauma has had on the city in the faces of the people, especially in the children. It's still a city in shock. I left with a heavy heart, but knowing that the rebuilding has begun and help will continue to come."