#8 of 30in30: SIFE Students rebuild earthquake-ravaged school

Students in Free Enterprise clubs make economic impact at home, abroad

It was the event of a lifetime in January 2010 when an earthquake hit Haiti right as Blue Ridge Community College’s SIFE team was visiting Riviere Froid, killing 200 children in a school where the students were staying and making for a hair-raising experience getting home.

30-ways-in-30-days-logoThis past January, BRCC students and staff returned to Haiti for the 7th time in the past 5 years, checking on the school and orphanage they raised $25,000 to rebuild, and continuing their other projects in the country to boost the local economy.

What is it?

SIFE is Students in Free Enterprise, and BRCC has one of the most active chapters in Virginia’s Community Colleges, having won two national championships in 2007 and 2008.  The students focus on economic sustainability projects both at home and abroad, everything from the BRCC Coffee House to a new project to create biomass briquets to take to Haiti this summer as an alternative to charcoal.

Who is it helping?


BRCC students wave to the residents of the Haitian island, Latorre Bouchan

The impact of the SIFE teams is global.

59 handicapped children are now living at the school – where more than 100 other children come for daily instruction – in Riviere Froide, just a few kilometers from the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake.

Last year, 40 solar lights and fishing gear were delivered to the Haitian island Latorre Bouchan by the BRCC team to assist the island maintain a fishing industry.

Where is it offered?

In addition to Blue Ridge, there are SIFE teams at Virginia Highlands, Mountain Empire, and Thomas Nelson community colleges.


VHCC students collected bikes that were refurbished for local children.

At Virginia Highlands, SIFE students are using a Dominion grant to open a coffee shop similar to the one at BRCC, with an emphasis on back-up solar power, organic coffees and recycled cups and supplies. The VHCC team also recently collected beat-up bicycles, had them refurbished at a local prison, and then given to area children at Christmas.

What are we learning from it?

Students, staff and the communities they serve continue to learn from the efforts of the SIFE team.  When the school at Riviere Froide was rebuilt, the proejct was sent in pieces to Haiti, where local adults could learn the construction trade as they rebuilt the school.

Megan Samples, who endured the 2010 earthquake, said in returning,

“Now, it’s like we have the opportunity to really do something to make a difference.”

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