Shippensburg University’s French Club danced to Caribbean music and tasted beignets for charity at the Cora I. Grove Spiritual Center on Thursday night.
The French Club hosted its annual Mardi Gras celebration. Students practiced their dancing skills by learning Zouk, a popular dance in Haiti, and competed to be crowned king and queen of Mardi Gras.
The event was created in 2012 by SU French professors Blandine Mitaut and Jonas Celius to raise money to support Gros Mangles, a village in Haiti.
“This event means a lot to me because I’ve always wanted to help people in need. I have many friends from Haiti and I wanted to support the country,” former French Club Treasurer Esther Nganinga said.
The first project was building a playground for the village’s elementary school, l’École Presbytérale, in 2013. The French Club raised $10,000 to give the children a better place to enjoy their lives.
“The school was interested in building a playground because the children did not have a flat safe surface to play on where they wouldn’t get dirty or harm themselves or run around without stepping in animal feces,” Mitaut said.
After the playground was built, the people of Gros Mangles asked the club to build a medical center so the entire community could benefit from it. The nearest medical center is two hours away.
In 2015, the club started the foundation for the center, and as of January 2018 the floors inside were completed and electrical wiring was installed.
Unfortunately, the hospital’s completion has been put on hold because of the heated political election in Haiti. Shippensburg University postponed students and faculty traveling to Haiti.
“It was frustrating that we had to postpone and perhaps cancel [the visit] this year,' Mitaut said. “We do understand that Shippensburg University wants students and faculty safe. We were looking forward on picking students to go but now we’re not sure.”
The French Club continues to raise money in hopes of returning to Haiti soon. It is working on becoming a non-profit organization.
“We have to come as a group, a community. [The French Club] does as much as we can from this small town, and it would be better if we had more of the university support to raise more money and to aid,” Nganinga said.
Future projects will be consulted with the Gros Mangles community. The village committee has discussed how the project will evolve.
There are some ideas on what to do next, including training local teachers and creating recycling and trash disposals.
It is estimated that the club will finish the hospital by May 2019.
Students can donate on the website www.projectgrosmangles.com/donate.