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BWLI Students and Committee

High Impact Documentary

Student makes video of Haiti experience


03/17/2010

Mitchell Maselli \'11 

When he left Haiti just two days before the country's devastating January 12 earthquake, Mitchell Maselli '11 of Clarksburg, MA, knew he would come back to film a documentary there, but little did he know how soon he would return. Maselli was part of a team of college students traveling with the Haiti Plunge, a program of the Church Outreach To Youth Project, Inc. (COTY) in North Adams, founded by Sister Eunice Tassone.

Last month, Maselli, an English major with a concentration in film studies, traveled back with another Haiti Plunge contingent on the first commercial flight into Haiti since the earthquake. Over the years, multiple Haiti Plunge teams have traveled to the villages of Desab and Breley, about 45 miles north of Port Au Prince. There, the volunteers encourage sustainable development through an agricultural cooperative consisting of nine villages in the mountains of the central plateau.

On his first trip to Haiti, Maselli did construction work. On his second trip, however, he worked to create a film, at the request of Haiti Plunge organizers.

"They asked if I could do one to tell the story of the recovery after the earthquake. I had intended on doing a documentary at some point. This was a huge story. I felt like this was the perfect time to put my intentions into action," he says. "The video does have a focus on the earthquake, but there's a strong focus on the mission of the Plunge."

Once completed, the film will be used by the COTY Center to raise funds for Haiti and to spread awareness of the need in that country. Maselli also plans to submit it to a variety of film festivals.

There is an essential need, Maselli says, to repair the villagers' homes.

"There's a lot of money being donated into Haiti solely because so many people's houses are damaged. Haitians are working around the clock to try to rebuild and make their homes safe so their families can live in them," he explains. "The average Haitian family isn't the same size as the average family here in the United State, where we have about four people in a household. Our aunts and uncles and grandparents live all over the place. In Haiti, there's aunts and uncles and grandparents all living in the same home. There are families with eight or nine or 10 children - huge families living in a small area, and they're all affected by this because their homes aren't currently habitable."

The leaders of the community, he says, are focused and driven individuals who want to create a better life for the people. "One person can't do it. They just work together so well and so seamlessly to try to better their situation. It's very intense to go down there and see how driven they are."

The Haitian people, says Maselli, remain optimistic and positive.

"They have very strong, deep roots in their faith in God, and they use that to get through every day. Since this earthquake, they're been going to church three and four times a day in these villages. They've been endlessly thanking the Lord for what they have, and it's very different from what you'd see here I think, if something similar had happened. I don't think people here would have the same optimistic tone that the people in Haiti do," he says.

Maselli urges people who want to help by donating money to consider the Haiti Plunge.

"One hundred percent of those funds go to the people," he says. "When Sister Eunice puts this money in the account, she puts it exactly where it needs to go as far as building, as far as food, as far as clothing. All of this money is going to the mission. It's not going to pay executives and other overhead. It's solely dedicated to the people of Haiti."