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History Meets Service on the Island of Nevis


A student service organization at Hamilton has big plans for Spring Break. Members will be volunteering with non-profit agencies on the Caribbean island of Nevis, birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, from March 19-26.

Established in 2013, the student service organization is following a new format for this year’s trip. In past years, students have traveled to Nicaragua where they have been performing physical labor on community farms. These trips relied on a third-party organization to coordinate volunteer opportunities. The Nevis trip has been planned solely by Hamilton students and staff. Coordinated with the assistance of Director of Community Outreach Amy James and College Chaplain Jeff McArn, Global Volunteers has communicated with in-country organizations to pinpoint venues in most need of assistance.

Emily Rubenstein ’16 and Jenna Crawford ’17 are leading the trip. Participants include Denise Mesa Reyes ‘16, Patricia Taik ’16, Sindy Chen ’19, Conrad Hsiang ’19, Max Kohn ’19, Jesse Yu ’19 and Phoebe Keyes ’19. Government Department faculty Heather Sullivan and Joel Winkelman will accompany the students.

In preparation for this unique opportunity Christian Goodwillie, director and curator of Special Collections and Archives, shared documents from Hamilton’s Beinecke Lesser Antilles Collection related to Nevis and Alexander Hamilton with the group.  They also met with Everson Hull, St. Kitts and Nevis ambassador to the Organization of American States, who visited campus on March 2 and spoke to the group about the island’s politics, education system and economy.

The Hamilton students will be engaging with a variety of youth organizations focused on minimizing youth gang culture on the island. The group will be spending the majority of their week at Operation Future,  a program “aimed at educating children about the dangers of crime, violence and drugs and providing a healthy after-school environment,” explained trip leader Rubenstein.

Students will volunteer at the Creative Youth Academy, working on an anti-bullying campaign with students after school in the afternoons. Rubenstein said that participants are anxious to work on this campaign, asserting that “bullying is ingrained across cultures, so it is easy to speak about.”

In moments spent outside these educational settings, volunteers will be helping with smaller projects. These include work at Care Nevis, an understaffed dog shelter, and Hands across the Sea, an organization preparing for the opening of a library.

A visit to Alexander Hamilton’s birthplace promises to be  a highlight of the trip  as well as planned meetings with community members to discuss  connections between the island, Hamilton and the college. Rubenstein is anxious for this “opportunity to make deeper connections with the locals.” She anticipates that the service group will sponsor future volunteer trips during winter and summer breaks.

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