How It All Began
In 1989, our founder, John Callaghan, and his wife were returning from a vacation. At the airport, John struck up a conversation with a group of strangers (as he always does) who were returning from a student trip to Jamaica, where they had dedicated their time to painting a school.
Being a teacher at the time, Callaghan was inspired by this chance encounter to organize a volunteer trip to Jamaica with his students
The success of this trip turned it into an annual tradition, eventually leading students to Haiti, where we were captivated by the country's spirit and its people. Callaghan continued to spearhead these inaugural trips until his retirement as a principal.
Although, he retired, there was no slowing down for him, as there was still a growing interest from people to volunteer in Haiti. Some were now ex-students of his. In fact, one of the very first students who went on the trip was Bridget Ogundipe, who is TWA's President. And ever since the first trip, Bridget has gone back every year. Not even a global pandemic can stop her.
TWA has completed over 29 volunteer trips, with 20 of them in Haiti. We've built a school in Cité Soleil and continue to improve and expand it. We have run food programs, sponsored families and students, committed our time at hospices and orphanages to bring joy and relief - and wherever a helping hand was needed.
TWA has been investing in communities and projects in Haiti for over 2 decades. Check out our trip highlights over the last two decades.
2022Stairs: Constructing over 220 feet of stairs for the Juvenat community in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in December 2022. This route has now made it easier for the people of this area to commute up and down the mountain. Destins food program: Feeding over 300 people in the Jirado community of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, many of them children. December 2022. Cite Soleil: Visiting gang controlled locations in Cite Soleil, Haiti to see where to start the construction of a community latrine, where the majority of people do not have access to clean drinking water. December 2022.
2021For the last couple of years, we have not been able to take a volunteer group down to Haiti. However, that has not stopped the continued efforts in supporting the local community in Cité Soleil. In fall 2021, one of the key organizers at TWA, Bridget Ogundipe, headed down to Haiti to check out our ongoing projects and connected with people in person – and it was amazing! Check out our video montage of the work we did! WHAT WAS ACCOMPLISHED DURING THIS TRIP Cleaning the Trench: 100% of your donations were used to pay salaries for workers, provide lunches and buy construction supplies to clean and cover the trench running the entire length of the street that leads right into the sea. We hired over 20 people from Cité Soleil to complete this project! Community Garden: We also built a community garden in the heart of Cité Soleil. Limes, tomatoes, lettuce, bananas and other tropical fruits and vegetables were planted to support this community garden. Having this garden is important for the community because it helps provide food to nourish their health. When a community is healthy, the people in it have more opportunities to thrive. Creating Homes: We supported the further construction of two of our guides’ homes, who have been a part of the TWA family for almost 20 years! Without our local team members, we would not be able to move safely and successfully in these environments and circumstances to do the work that we do. To our guides… We thank you for your help with growing your own communities and for successfully integrating us into the local community!
2020This past September 2020, Bridget went solo because the trip was cancelled due to the global pandemic. Although the annual volunteer trip did not happen, TWA efforts in Haiti did not slow down. Many people lost their jobs during the pandemic, but we made sure our teachers and school cooks' from our Cité Soleil school received their salaries. Hired locals to clear the trenches to allow rain water to flow and prevent flooding and damages to homes. Built garbage barrels that are cemented to the ground with a swivel for easy clearing Beautified Sud Wharf Community with a community garden, planting trees, flowers, fruit and vegetables.
2017This trip to Haiti had a number of highlights. We returned to the Malnutrition Clinic where people worked faithfully helping with the basic care of young children. Some of our volunteers also worked throughout the trip at the Pele Hospital. And this time, we were fortunate to have both a massage therapist and a reflexologist volunteering at the hospital. “EDUCATION IS THE MOST POWERFUL WEAPON WHICH YOU CAN USE TO CHANGE THE WORLD.” – NELSON MANDELA We, at Third World Awareness, believe it’s a human right to have a free and accessible education. The construction of our new school in Canaan is moving along steadily. Windows and doors have been added along with plumbing and wiring. What started as a small dream by a small group of students in Toronto, is now becoming a reality. This is all made possible with the generous support from donors, volunteers, friends, strangers – and of course, the unwavering dedication of our board member, Serena Buffalino. We also had a wonderful afternoon on the roof of the school in Canaan. Many children without a school were encouraged to come to enjoy food, art, balloons and kites and to walk through the school. It was truly a joyful experience. We can’t wait to open our doors to hundreds of students! Our work in Cité Soleil continues to grow. Our two-story school now has its doors open on the weekend and operates as a community centre. We have also continued to build a shelter for children and roll out an enrichment programme, including soccer, art, and dance. This is an ongoing project and we are going to raise funds for this program as we recognize the importance and value of sports and art. There are several initiatives we are passionate about, and with the help of our supporters, we are able to make some incredible things happen. Through a special donation of food from a generous donor and with the help of the community leader, Young Daddy, we were able to serve about a thousand plates of dinner on Flag Day. It was truly a day of celebration and smiles. We start every morning early and work tiredlessly through the heat, but on our off time, we unwind and enjoy the culture and beauty of the city. We continued to have a couple of speakers at night and we had a wonderful concert courtesy of Woodson, a beautiful singer from St. Joseph’s House. And for the first time, ever we walked through the centre of La Saline Market – what an experience! We also spent an evening at The Lookout, where we enjoyed the glistening view of the city, and another at the Olofsson Hotel where we danced away to Haitian music! We keep coming back to Haiti because there is something energetically captivating and inherently beautiful about it – the people, the city, the spirit. During this trip, we were surprised by a special citation from the Mayor of Cité Soleil for our continuing efforts to help the community. We are humbled to receive this award and grateful for the community opening up their home to us. Thank you to everyone for your commitment, energy and open hearts!!!
2016This was the 23rd trip for our grassroot organization. A lot of exciting news and updates! This year, we organized a couple of new programs at our school in Cité Soleil. We organized a soccer program and tested out a creative workshop that included dance, art, mime and photography. We also supported the local community to begin building a shelter and small orphanage for displaced children. The school in Canaan now also has a roof and we are keeping our fingers crossed for future developments. This was a good beginning of many exciting projects! We’ve learned a lot and can’t wait to see how it evolves. Thanks to all who participated and generously donated to this cause!
2015This year we had the smallest group attend the grip, but we’ve always believed in “quality over quantity.” Our dedicated volunteers worked at the Mother Theresa’s Malnutrition Clinic where we helped care for the children, sang, danced and played with them. We also volunteered at the Cité Pelé hospital where the patients were treated with complimentary massage treatments by our RMT volunteer. We, unfortunately, didn’t have the funds to complete the school in Canaan, but the good news is that we were able to finish the schoolyard in Cité Soleil 🙂 The pavement was painted with games and a basketball court which the kids loved! During this trip, we were invited up to a mountain village about an hour north of Port au Prince where we spent an evening there watching a local play about Christopher Columbus arriving in the Caribbean. It was followed by a wonderful concert featuring a violin, guitar and a Haitian drummer. Another highlight of the trip was when we took part in Haiti’s Flag Day celebrations down on the dock in Cité Soleil. It was an unforgettable celebration and we’re honoured we were able to be part of it.
2014Every trip is a very special one in its own way. During this trip, we continued the work on the new school up in Canaan, which is just a roof away from being complete. We also started paving a schoolyard in Cité Soleil and we’re halfway done! We are hoping to paint some games on the pavement for the kids. Another highlight from this trip was a surprise birthday party we threw for ALL the kids at the Malnutrition Clinic – it was a blast! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO…. EVERYONE!”
1990 - 20132013 Watch the video montage of our trip! 2012 Eighteen people including two university students participate in this trip. A large number of donations arrived with the volunteers this year and most of the group spends their time at the Malnutrition Clinic with small children. Electrical wiring begins in the school in Cité Soleil. 2011 This was the year after the earthquake. Tents were everywhere and new volunteers were shocked by the devastation. There was a lot of work to be done. Our services were well received at the Malnutrition Clinic and The Brothers hospital in Cité Pele. We also saw the property for a new school in Canaan and broke the soil at the site, and opened the door to new hope. 2010 Twenty-eight participants come in the year after the earthquake. Repairs were needed to the second floor of the school in Cité Soleil which was under construction. This trip featured a wonderful day at an open field orphanage in rural area. Games, sandwiches and songs fill the day. 2009 Land at the back of the school in Cité Soleil is purchased – 10 feet high cement block wall is built around it for safety. Our volunteers continue to allow themselves to be used in whatever way necessary. 2008 We continue to receive enough money to keep our projects going. The malnutrition clinic continues to be a focus for most our of volunteers. 2007 The school building begins to take shape in Cité Soleil. There will be about five classes and hopefully a second floor. The week ends with a basketball game against Cité Soleil. Both teams sing the national anthems before the game. Quite formal! 2006 More students from York University and the University of Toronto join us. This year our participants also have a basketball game against the Cité Soleil Basketball team. Unfortunately, we lost. 2005 This year’s work begins on the Cité Soleil kitchen. Community lunch is cooked by local women and the community come for rice and meat and gravy. Volunteers join us this year from the Muslim Student Association of the University of Toronto and from York University Black Students Association. 2004 Ten of the previous years participants return to Port-au-Prince as the political situation is getting edgy. Should we be there? A school in Mississauga give us 40 backpacks full of school supplies. 2003 Twenty-two people to Port-au-Prince for the first Haitian Experience. Many are shocked by the conditions in which people are living. It is so much worse than the ghettoes in Kingston, Jamaica. 2002 Twenty-one people travel to Kingston, Jamaica. We add Maxfield Orphanage and Dare To Care to our work centres. Social life at night with Jamaicans give us a different flavour. 2001 Twenty, mostly university students, travel to Kingston, Jamaica. It is the rainy season now and there is a downpour every day. A volunteer gets us a special night in Negril. 2000 A smaller group of ten people travel to Kingston, Jamaica. This year marks the beginning of mostly university students participating and most are working in Trench Town at Operation Restoration. 1999 Eighteen people went to Kingston, Jamaica and we stayed at the Thomas Moore Convent. We began our mornings with circles of affirmations. This year included work at the Marigold Orphanage. 1998 Twenty-two people back to Kingston, Jamaica. This was our first venture into Trench Town where many students worked at Operation Restoration. We ended the trip with a travelling Godspell performance to all our locations that year. 1996 Sixteen people travelled to Kingston, Jamaica. The trip featured the painting of an elementary school in Paine and a mine & juggling act in River-ton City. 1993 Fifteen people to Esteli, Nicaragua. The students lived and worked in an international orphanage called El Dia. The Portuguese participants picked up Spanish very quickly. 1992 Twenty-eight people to Kingston, Jamaica. We stayed at the Immaculate Heart Convent and we began to travel by public transit for the first time. It was scary but exciting to be on the street and on buses with the people. 1990 First trip to Kingston, Jamaica. Twenty-eight people including six teachers and one parent participated in this inaugural trip. It was to be the beginning of many trips – unknown at the time.
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