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Making the world a better place
At the top is a photo of Taylor Smith and her fellow counselor with their Haitian group at at "Kan Klodin" (Creole) aka in English, Camp Claudine. Below that is a photo of the Capitol Palace in Port au Prince, Haiti, which still lies in ruins from the 2010 earthquake. At middle right is Taylor with a child, Babylove, who she became close to in Haiti. At bottom left is Taylor with fellow Trinity student Jameka Hodnett, who made a "Why it Matters" presentation at school. At bottom right is Taylor and two club members at a protest in front of the White House last year.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Taylor Carrier Smith realized what she endeavors after college after spending all of July in Haiti, where she ran a summer camp for children.
"Over 200 kids came to camp every morning, full of energy! It was a wonderful learning experience, and I became much more grateful for what I have here in the United States. The poverty in Haiti is extreme, and you do not realize how lucky you are until you see and experience for yourself the conditions that other people in this world live in," noted Taylor, a senior attending Trinity College in D.C.
Taylor, a 2009 graduate of Mountain Valley High School, said she had studied about Haiti in college, taking a class called Rebuilding Haiti 2011: Post Earthquake. "I learned about all of the damage that the 2010 earthquake had caused, and the humanitarian efforts that were taking place there. That is how I became interested in going, and how I prepared myself for what I would be seeing."
"But nothing can truly prepare you for the poverty. It's nothing like here in the United States. It is very crowded in Port au Prince and everyone makes their income from selling goods in the streets. It is a very informal economy, you can find most things that you need from street markets and vendors, who are constantly trying to sell you their goods," said Taylor.
She said the ride from the airport to where they were staying in Gros Morne, Haiti was three hours long, on mostly bumpy dirt roads. "Eight of us crowded into an old SUV for the ride, and I thought to myself, 'Welcome to Haiti!'"
"On the first day of camp, I was nervous that there would be a communication barrier between myself and the children, and although there definitely was, it did not hinder us from still having fun! There were just over 200 kids in the camp. I still think about their smiles and their hugs, and the way they always wanted to play with my hair," said Taylor.
"I always wish that I could send them care packages, but there is no functioning mail service in Haiti, so the only way I can send a package is if it is hand delivered. Regardless, I still plan on going back someday, and I will bring presents when I reunite with all of them!" she noted.
"The trip made me commit to helping the less fortunate for the rest of my life, I now truly believe that it is what I was born to do," said Taylor. "The Haitian children made me appreciate life, even in the worst of circumstances. I cannot wait to go back there again someday and see how the kids have grown. Haiti feels like my second home now."
"After I am finished with my bachelor's degree, I plan on going to graduate school for Environmental Studies, with a focus in environmental and social advocacy. I would like to do humanitarian aid work," she said.
Taylor is also making an impact at Trinity, where she is part of a club called Students for Environmental Responsibility.
"We like to hold a lot of on and off campus events. For on campus, we have had a 'Why it Matters' presentation to teach students and professor's why the environment is so important to us, and important to protect. We also had an event where we gave away reusable water bottles, to encourage their use instead of store bought bottled water, because of plastic pollution."
The mission of the club, Taylor explains, is to educate the Trinity community about environmental issues both globally and locally.
They try to set up easy ways that Trinity women can make a difference. For example, the club encouraged students to sign a “green pledge,” to take shorter showers. They hosted a clean-up day for the Anacostia River. They even taught students to crumble their garbage into tiny balls to take up less space in landfills.
The club has been successful so far, but the women hope they can make an even bigger impact on the Trinity campus. For example, they’d like to see Trinity have a better recycling program campus-wide. And they want to see a huge turnout for the Earth Day Rally on the national mall.
"Off campus, this year we took students to the Green Festival, which is where business and community leaders come together to discuss critical issues that impact us at home and abroad. Organizations and businesses showcase programs and products that restore the planet and all that inhabit it," said Taylor.
The Green Festival featured more than 125 renowned authors, leaders and educators; great how-to workshops; cutting-edge films; fun activities for kids; organic beer and wine; delicious vegetarian cuisine and diverse live music. It was sponsored by a non-profit organization called Green America, with whom she interned for this fall semester.
"The Trinity experience has taught me to be a strong, independent women, who will never stop working for what I want to achieve. The undergraduate school at Trinity is a women's college, so there is a special camaraderie their among women. They certainly promote women to be the best they can be, and to have no limits when it comes to their career plans. Nancy Pelosi was a Trinity graduate, so she has inspired all of us to shoot for the stars," said Taylor.
She gives a lot of credit her experience growing up in Rumford/Mexico. which "gave me a beautiful childhood, and I could not have asked for a better place to grow up. But I always had an outward focus, wondering what was going on in the rest of the world."
"By high school, I knew that I was going to go somewhere far away for school. D.C. is so diverse, and has so much to offer. You can do anything you want here, and it was the perfect place for me to go to college, especially because practically every non-profit organization in the country has their headquarters here," said Taylor.
"Mountain Valley High School gave me the leadership skills that instilled in me my confidence for college. Playing basketball all throughout school taught me dedication and teamwork, and Student Council helped me to become a student leader" she said.
"From my basketball coach, to my teachers, to my family, I always had such a warm support system that always encourages me to go for exactly what I want. I knew that going away to Washington D.C with plans to study International Affairs would be a huge change for my life, but it was what I truly wanted, so I went for it, just like I had always been encouraged to do," said Taylor.