Fraternity’s Summer Service in Haiti Becomes a Life-Changing Experience
Dan Parsons describes the summer trip that he says had a profound impact on the brothers of the UC chapter of Sigma Chi.
Date: 7/16/2007Here I was thinking I was going to help these people in need, but I know that they helped me much more than I helped them – not physically, but spiritually. – Dan Parsons
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Sigma Chi Fraternity
A summer trip for a group of University of Cincinnati fraternity brothers was far from the typical trip to a beach or a hike in the mountains. In fact, on their arrival, Dan Parsons says they felt they had entered another world. Parsons, a fifth-year major in finance and digital business from Symmes Township, and nine other members of the UC chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity took off for Haiti last month to spend a week working with a missionary organization, working in extreme heat to patch up a school and visit with children housed at an orphanage and a jail.
Parsons kept a blog on the trip, which reveals the shock of what the fraternity members witnessed as they first landed in Port-au-Prince. “There were shacks made of tin and rubbish that stretched past the horizon,” writes Parsons. “Walls that enclosed ‘communities,’ were topped with nails, barbed wire and thick glass shards for protection. We passed a truck filled with trash holding a man who was searching for anything of worth and disposing the rest into the streets. Absolutely no street laws applied, let alone any laws at that.”
The UC Sigma Chi members were joining FOCUS Ministries as the non-profit organization provided assistance to the region. Each of the fraternity members raised $1,300 to cover their expenses for the trip, plus, Parsons say, they raised an additional $2,000 to buy soccer balls for the children as well as hygiene kits for the children housed at a jail.
“The orphanage was an all-girls orphanage. Many of the girls would just show up there – their parents had abandoned them,” Parsons says. “I’d say there were two bedrooms and each of them housed around 14 girls. They were starved for attention. We brought them a big sack full of ‘kid’s’ food, and toys and stuff like that,” he says.
Parsons estimates that the jail housed more than 200 children in four cells that were the size of a living room in the average American home. “The kids were serving time for anything ranging from stealing food for survival, to domestic problems or drug-running,” he explains. “The problem there is that the judicial system is so corrupt, the kids get thrown in jail and charged a ‘debt,’ and if the debt doesn’t get paid, they stay there.”
Despite what Parsons describes as deplorable conditions, he says the hard-work ethic of the townspeople at the school, and their warm reception of the fraternity brothers, was an experience that has made him vow to return. In his blog, he reminds himself of what was said to him by one of the villagers. “He said that we as Americans have so much that we have lost all perspective on the necessities of life that make a human enjoy the art of living.
“We realized that the amount of physical labor that we would help them with meant so little in the grand scheme of this trip,” states Parson’s blog. “As much as we wanted to give, we couldn’t stop learning – we couldn’t stop being touched by the amazing excitement for life the children portrayed.”
Parsons’ blog is on myspace at:
UC Sigma Chi Members Who Traveled to Haiti