Spotlight: Healing Haiti: Model U.N. Members Reach Out

Spotlight: Healing Haiti: Model U.N. Members Reach Out

Date Published:
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This past year, the University’s Model United Nations excelled in regional and national competitions designed to search for solutions to international problems. However, members wanted to extend their global reach beyond the theoretical and gain experience in being members of the global community.

Eleven students and recent graduates from UNC Charlotte, all members of UNC Charlotte’s award-winning Model UN team, joined by faculty advisor and professor of political science Cindy Combs, spent eight hot, grueling summer days volunteering at an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as part of international earthquake recovery efforts. By all accounts, the trip changed their lives.

“This was my fifth disaster relief trip (but the first one to Haiti),” said Matt Smither, last year’s Model U.N. president who just graduated in May. “But this was by far the most poverty I’ve ever seen.”

The orphanage where the students volunteered housed more than 90 children with just three caretakers. The children didn’t have enough clothes or enough food. It was tough on the students to see the conditions the children endured, but they say they were inspired by the happy smiles and resilient nature of the kids despite their poverty.

The Model U.N. team worked at the orphanage to help build latrines and outdoor showers. They also engaged with the children everyday and taught various classes on personal hygiene – like brushing teeth – along with English and other courses.

[Students] are struck by all the food and amenities we have here that they don’t have in Haiti. They’ve told me they don’t feel like eating. But I’ve given each of them a project to work on, to give them hope, so they can continue to make a difference for these children.
Cindy Combs, Model U.N. Faculty Advisor

They left the orphanage feeling as if they hadn’t done enough, as if they could never do enough.

“I’ve heard from students every day since we got back,” said Combs. “They are struck by all the food and amenities we have here that they don’t have in Haiti. They’ve told me they don’t feel like eating. But I’ve given each of them a project to work on, to give them hope, so they can continue to make a difference for these children.”

The team’s efforts are already inspiring others to pitch in. Combs’ church has pledged support, and the mother of Model U.N. member Jay Patel has launched a clothing drive.

Students are planning to make the trip again next summer and are working to get materials in advance so they can be more productive during their short time there. The team also is hoping to develop this service-learning aspect of the organization as a new paradigm for Model U.N. clubs everywhere. They hope to redefine what it means to be a part of the Model U.N. -- to put principles into action.

If you would like to learn more about UNC Charlotte’s Model U.N. team or how to contribute to their Haiti efforts, contact Cindy Combs