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A student abroad: ‘I am more grateful’

  • Ethan Vitello carries a bucket on his head while down in Haiti.  COURTES PHOTO

  • Ethan Vitello helps paint some tables and bed frames that he and a visiting group built to give to three local families so the children wouldn’t have to sleep on a dirt floor and so the families had a place to eat.  COURTESY PHOTO

  • Ethan Vitello poses with a group of Haitian boys that helped lead Vitello and a visiting group to a local waterfall.  COURTESY PHOTO

  • Ethan Vitello stands on the second floor porch of the Tree of Hope Haiti guest house, which overlooks Grand Goave, Haiti.  COURTESY PHOTO

  • Ethan Vitello and his Haitian friend Son Son walk through a dry river bed in Grand Goave, Haiti.  COURTESY PHOTO

  • Ethan Vitello enjoys the cool mist coming off a waterfall after he and a visiting group hiked four miles in the hot Haitian sun.  COURTESY PHOTO

  • Ethan Vitello poses next to Son Son, who he met in Haiti. Vitello has expressed an interest in sponsoring Son Son through the Tree of Hope Haiti education sponsorship program.  COURTESY PHOTO

  • In addition to completing school work and helping local families, Ethan Vitello also finds time to play with he local children. In this photo, Vitello and some of the Haitian children prepare for an impromptu half mile race. Vitello ended up coming in second in this race.  COURTESY PHOTO

  • In addition to completing school work and helping local families, Ethan Vitello also finds time to play with he local children. In this photo, Vitello and some of the Haitian children prepare for an impromptu half mile race. Vitello ended up coming in second in this race.  COURTESY PHOTO



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hiking mountains, playing soccer, and warm temperatures may sound like a godsend to many New Englanders now enduring the chilly winter months, but for Ethan Vitello the fun of being in Haiti also comes with a lot of responsibility.

Vitello, a seventh-grader at Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School, has been in Haiti since Oct. 31, building houses and doing other community-based projects. On top of that, the 12-year-old from Jaffrey is expected to keep up on his schoolwork so he doesn’t fall behind.

“The whole experience has been a lot of fun so far,” Vitello said, during a recent video chat. “It’s amazing to me because we [as Americans] have so much more than [Haitians] have, but they still have a lot of faith and hope and are just thankful to have what they have.”

Vitello was given the opportunity to spend some time in Haiti due to his parents – Jonathan and Sarah – and their work with a child education sponsorship program for the Tree of Hope Haiti and the Good News Bible Church in Wilton.

The family had taken a trip to Haiti in August of 2015 after the death of Sarah’s mother, which prompted the family to want to give back to those less fortunate.

“Ethan had made friends when he had visited previously and he wanted to go back,” said Sarah. “The group we took down through the church fell in love and wanted to go back. We thought it would be a great opportunity for Ethan.”

Vitello’s few months in Haiti have been full of equal parts fun and hard work. In addition to building houses and assisting visiting groups in other charitable activities, Vitello has been able to forge friendships and explore Grand Goave, an area hard hit by Hurricane Matthew.

Living in Haiti has been quite an adjustment for Vitello, as he has had to learn the local language – Kreyol – and assimilate into a culture than is very different from the one he is used to.

“Sometimes the behavior isn’t the best. While many Haitians are happy, many feel that they can do whatever they want,” said Vitello, who said that living with his father’s cousin in Grand Goave has made the transition a little easier. “The food is also an adjustment. They don’t have junk food over here so I had to say goodbye to chocolate and ice cream.”

Another large change for Vitello is his education.

Misty McBrierty, director of curriculum and instruction with the Jaffrey-Rindge School District, said that the district is working with Vitello, attempting to personalize and tailor an online educational experience for him.

“He’s in Haiti building houses, but he is also going to school along with being engaged in the culture there,” said McBrierty. “He’s learning about science, writing, and government in a real-life context.”

McBrierty said that Vitello is also in charge of an online digital portfolio/blog and that the two are in contact on a weekly basis to ensure that he is learning everything he needs to. The Ledger-Transcript will periodically publish some of Vitello’s blog entries, detailing a first-hand account of his experiences in Haiti.

“It’s all modeled through expeditionary learning,” said McBrierty, who hopes the district can use this type of learning experience in the future for other students. “He’s doing a lot of things, like taking photos and videos, and engaging in political and social issues,” said McBrierty. “There is so much that he can learn by having an educational model like this where he is able to see things in action.”

 As a part of a recent science lesson, Vitello learned the scientific process of how charcoal is made.

Vitello’s time in Haiti is almost over – he will be back in the United States on Feb. 4 – but his memories of his trip are something that will last forever.

Vitello said his biggest take away from the trip is to be grateful for the things you have in life because there are always people less fortunate than you.

“I’m so gifted and yet I still complain. There are people in the world that have nothing,” said Vitello. “I’m definitely going to be a lot more grateful for the things I have.”

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.