Growing up in Ouanaminthe, Haiti, exposed Millersville student Marie-Claire Charles to the desperate need for shelter, food and education among the runaway boys in her community. The need for improvement fueled Charles to come to the United States. While studying at Millersville, Charles made the decision to set a personal goal for herself of coordinating mission trips and service learning projects and of opening a house to shelter those in need in her hometown.
Charles, who graduated from Millersville with her bachelor of arts in international studies on May 10, plans to return to Haiti to help improve the living conditions of runaway boys living on the streets of Ouanaminthe, many of whom cross the border to the Dominican Republic looking for a way to survive.
“I have lived in Ouanaminthe and have seen the desperate need there,” said Charles. “I hope to provide shelter, food and hopefully education to them.”
Charles came to Millersville thanks to host families in Lancaster she was connected with from her high school, Institution Univers. She had the distinction of being one of five granted a scholarship to study in the United States.
After receiving the scholarship, Charles ended up in Lancaster, where the women of the host families, whom she refers to as “moms,” took turns hosting her, traveling alongside her and organizing fund raisers to pay her tuition.
“It didn’t take long until we became one big family,” said Charles “These ladies…my moms, are all and each very dear to my heart.”
A native Creole speaker—a language she describes as “simple but complicated”—Charles took linguistic and English as a second language courses at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), dedicating her time to learning the language and academic styles in her new country. After spending two years at HACC, she transferred to Millersville at the guidance of her host families.
“I didn’t know much about the university, but when I came for a tour, I knew that I wanted to be here,” said Charles. “I wouldn’t have chosen anywhere else.”
As her three years of working towards her degree in international studies with a minor in business have come to a close, Marie-Claire has set her sights on returning to Haiti to help those in need.
“The realization of this goal will be my way of saying ‘thank you’ to my moms and the other people who have helped me in one way or another during these past five years,” said Charles. “My experience at Millersville University will forever be a significant part of my life.”