Alina Mattson on her Trip to Haiti with Sewickley Academy

We’re excited to share this photo recap and reflection by Alina Mattson on her recent trip to Haiti with Sewickley Academy in Pittsburgh.


I had an opportunity to travel to Haiti with an organization called Work my junior year at Sewickley Academy. What struck me about this organization was their integration into the communities and their promise to make families self-sufficient instead of offering outside solutions that would fix their problems short term. They do this by making sure both parents are in stable jobs and their children are placed in school. While in Haiti, we got to see first hand how Work functions and what they strive to achieve.

This year, I led the trip to Haiti with the same organization because its mission is something I'm passionate about and I wanted to continue serving. Eleven students with two chaperones traveled to Haiti from January 18-22. In addition to myself, Simi Shetty returned for a second year; the rest of the group was experiencing the country for the first time. Leading up to the trip this year, I remained in contact with the people of Work. Before our departure, our community participated in “Hats for Haiti” and gathered hygienic products which would be taken to Haiti with us.

I’ve learned that fixing poverty on a global scale is no easy task. However, this organization works block by block, making sure each family is self-sufficient before moving onto the next. In addition, they work with the kids who are behind in their schooling and bring them up to their grade level. Work’s hardest task while establishing themselves in the community is convincing people that they are there to stay. Listening to the families in Menelas, Haiti, talk, they said that too many times organizations come in, implement a plan, then leave. The idea of showing up and coming back is what drove me to return to Haiti. Work wants to change the way organizations are perceived and they work with families extensively to put them back on their feet. The people at Work are driven to eradicate poverty in a country where people are not receiving the support they need.

When I returned to the country in January, I felt as though I was coming home; I was surprised that those who we had met last year remembered me as I got off the airplane. After meeting the families and hearing their stories I realized the power of the organization and what they are doing for these families. While on my first trip, I kept on saying I wanted to come back. I fell in love with the people and the country. The Haitians who were a part of the organization truly amazed me. Many of them had gone to high school and spoke several different languages with ease, including English, Spanish, French, and Creole. They had a drive that I have not seen anywhere else. All of them wanted to change their country for the better and educate those around them.

Returning to Pittsburgh both times was another culture shock. After spending time in Haiti, it is hard to come back home where we take a lot of things for granted. You truly realize how lucky you are to live in a community like Sewickley where the possibilities are endless. Despite this, it is too easy to fall back into the cycle of everyday life. I realized the importance of this trip and the opportunity I had to see Haiti, a country we hear a lot about but is so different to see in person. In the future, I plan on returning to Haiti and continuing my relationship with Work.

EngagementVivien Luk