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The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

Hands to Haiti explodes in popularity

Srivas Arun
(From left to right) secretary Sophie Krauss, vice president Mia Votano, advisor Anthony Brown, treasurer Lauren Treible, president Alana Parks, and social media manager Julianne Frechette meet in the PAC for a meeting.

At the end of last school year, less than ten people were consistently attending the Hands to Haiti meetings, and the existence of the club in upcoming years was largely uncertain. However, that fear is now nonexistent because with more than fifty students, Hands to Haiti has had to move their meetings from a classroom to the lecture hall to fit all of their members.

Hands to Haiti is a fundraising club that holds meetings on Thursdays from 2-3 pm in the lecture hall to organize events and raise money to aid the Matenwa Community Learning Center in Haiti.

Last year, Hands to Haiti faced a lack of attendance at club meetings that left the few remaining members struggling to find ways to continue organizing and conducting events. So few people were attending the meetings that it was difficult to find even five students to fill the club’s leadership positions for the current school year.

“When we had elections last year, [the other members and I] didn’t have to run against people,” junior and secretary of the club Sophie Krauss said. “We each had a position we wanted […] and so we all basically decided we would give it a try and see if we got [elected], but it was pretty much set in stone when we showed up.”

Even then, Krauss and the other club members had to ask junior Lauren Treible to fill the position of treasurer. Treible accepted, and with that, the new club officers were decided. With junior Alana Parks as president, junior Mia Votano as vice president, Krauss as secretary, Treible as treasurer, and junior Julianne Frechette as social media manager, the five officers quickly determined a plan to raise participation from the student body.

Their main focus was on incoming freshmen who would be looking for after school activities to partake in with their friends. The five officers themselves were introduced to the club by Krauss’ older sister and decided to use the same method of encouraging younger siblings and friends to join.

“They have done an excellent job recruiting,” Hands to Haiti advisor and social studies teacher Anthony Brown said. “[Hands to Haiti] had very few members last year and it’s easy to be discouraged by that, but they were not discouraged. They kind of took it as a challenge to make sure that we can continue to do this.”

According to Brown, the officers’ communication and preparation when organizing meetings is a clear display of their dedication and commitment as students. He also pointed out how hardworking they are when it comes to gathering materials and spreading information.

“[As the club advisor] I don’t really have a difficult job,” Brown said. “All the credit should go to the five girls. I can’t really stress how much work they did to make sure this continued.”

Their hard work is obvious due to the high number of freshman participating, but it is also illustrated by the increased numbers of sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have joined after hearing of the club from friends.

“I found out about the club through a junior last year who spoke positively about how much she enjoyed it,” sophomore Lauren Soucie said. “She described it as a fun, collaborative club that worked to benefit Haiti, and she recommended I join if I could.”

The officers attribute the lower number of members in the past to a lack of advertising. This year, they hope to continue to inform the student body of events through social media, posters, and messages on the morning announcements.

Along with advertising, the officers are also hoping to make meetings more interesting and fun in order to keep members engaged. As with many clubs, Hands to Haiti has struggled in the past to convince students to regularly attend meetings as they occasionally become repetitive or uninteresting.

“I want people to be excited to come to the meetings,” Treible said. “I don’t want to have to beg people to come to our meetings like in the past.”

To raise students’ excitement for the meetings, Parks explained that they have planned to incorporate different forms of entertainment in meetings to avoid disinterest in meetings.

“We played a movie and had snacks while packing Boo Grams because it’s engaging, it’s fun, and we’re also working to raise money in the process,” Parks said.

While there are other clubs in the building that aim to raise money for good causes, Hands to Haiti hopes to attract students by making a connection between their cause and enjoyable activities.

“I think our main idea is to connect people’s interests to wanting to help kids in Haiti,” Krauss said. “We want to get them to understand why they want to come [to the meetings] and then they can actually sit there and enjoy themselves but they also get to learn and get more passionate [about helping kids in Haiti].”

Going forward, the officers hope that they can ensure strong leadership in the future by instating a junior officer.

“When we took over, we kind of didn’t have a plan or know what to do with the club,” Votano said. “Next year we’re implementing the junior officer position so we’ll have someone on the board who is in a lower grade than us and they’ll be able to take over the board after us and lead the new group.”

In addition to a junior officer, the leaders of Hands to Haiti also hope to spread information on the “why” behind the club to make students more aware of the importance of their fundraising.

“One of the most difficult parts is making people aware of the organizations because a lot of people, when they think of Hands to Haiti, wonder where the money is going,” Parks said.

Parks explained that the money raised by Hands to Haiti is sent to the Matenwa Community Learning Center through an organization known as the Friends of Matenwa. The learning center educates disadvantaged youth in the community in their native language, Haitian Creole, instead of French, the language the majority of schools use.

“It’s so difficult to teach students when they don’t speak a language but are being forced to [understand that language],” Brown said. “That reinforced the importance of advising a club like this and making sure that students would have the opportunity to run their club.”

The new changes the officers have put in place are already generating excitement and enthusiasm within members of the club for upcoming years.

“I can tell [the officers] care a lot about the club […] they engage members well at meetings and have organized plans,” Soucie said. “I do believe I will keep going to the events because of how much I like the welcoming, stress-free environment of the club.”

With big goals for the rest of the year, the officers have high hopes for the success of the Hands to Haiti in the future, but all the officers agree that their main goal is to make sure students in the future can continue to support the cause and leave a lasting impact.

“We just want the club to continue being successful even once we’re gone, because we’ve established such a good relationship with the school and we hope to keep that alive for as long as we can,” Votano said.

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About the Contributor
Srivas Arun
Srivas Arun, News Editor
Hello! My name is Srivas Arun and I am currently a sophomore  and a co-news editor for the Ghostwriter. You can find me on the cross country and track teams year round. I am interested in spreading information to the student body about WA and its community.

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    Tara KraussOct 28, 2023 at 10:00 am

    Proud of you all!