Name: Annika Olson
School: University of Massachusetts Amherst
Major(s): Psychology and Economics
Class year: 2016 (graduated in May)
When and how did you get involved with YSI?
I first heard about YSI through a few of my friends at school. We were all at dinner one night and they mentioned this amazing volunteer trip that the school took every year to Haiti and it sounded like an incredible experience! We all decided to go to the YSI meetings on campus and talk more to our friend Karen Li, who was in charge of our UMass Chapter. Karen showed me all sorts of pictures and told me about the public health and economic development work that YSI did in Leogane. After learning so much about the program, I knew that I wanted to go on the trip and help the community there.
Which expeditions have you gone on?
What are your future plans with us?
Although I would have loved to continue going on the trips, I graduated in May and have a job and will be going back to school in the future. However, if I ever have the opportunity to go back to Haiti again, or help out the organization in any way, I would love to!
What is your favorite memory from your trip to Haiti?
My favorite memories from Haiti were spending time with all of the children and playing with them outside the compound. We braided each other’s hair, went for walks, played volleyball-- their smiles and laughs were so contagious! All of them were so friendly and loving, and this, paired with the amazing translators and volunteers, created an incredible community.
What would you say to somebody who is unsure whether or not YSI is right for them? Whether it means donating, traveling with us, or simply reading more about us.
If someone is unsure whether YSI is right for them, I would say read more about the work that they do and reach out to people who have volunteered in the past to learn more about their personal experience. Once someone has more information, it will be easier to decide if this is the right organization for them. Also, hearing about people’s experiences in Haiti is so important! Everyone has a unique story to share and it is very impactful to hear about all of the lives that are touched--both the volunteers and the people of Leogane--on the YSI trips.
What is your biggest take away from the experiences that you have had with YSI?
For me, the most important part of the trip I took with YSI was learning more about the country of Haiti and its wonderful people--it is an experience I will never forget. Seeing the struggles, challenges, triumphs, and ultimate perseverance of the Haitian community was truly inspiring. Also, the ability to be integrated in a wonderful community along with a group of people so dedicated to helping others is something that I will always be thankful to YSI for.