Students to host Mardi Gras Ball Feb. 11 to benefit Haitian village

The Shippensburg University French Club will host its third annual Mardi Gras Ball at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11 to raise funds for construction of a medical dispensary in Gros Mangles, a small village on an island off the coast of Haiti. Admission to the program in the Cora I. Grove Spiritual Center is $3.

“The Mardi Gras Ball is meant for the students to have fun, to learn about the traditions of Mardi Gras in the French-speaking world and, at the same time, to give to a community in need,” said Dr. Agnes Ragone, professor of modern languages.

The club will serve traditional Mardi Gras food such as beignets and king cake. Dr. Jose Ricardo, interim associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and associate professor of modern languages, will teach “zouk,” a traditional Haitian dance. Prizes will be given to the best dancer, best costume and best mask.

In Gros Mangles, residents have to travel for two hours to receive medical attention. Upon completion of the dispensary, the community will have a nurse on-site to provide care. According to Ragone, “We hope to eventually partner with physicians and dentists who could volunteer at the dispensary at different times throughout the year.” She estimates that it will take approximately three years to complete the project.

The motivation behind the initiative comes from Michael Celius, a former Shippensburg student and Gros Mangles resident. As a student he expressed concerns about his home community and how it was in desperate need of help.

Ragone and Dr. Blandine Mitaut, associate professor of modern languages, developed a double seminar to study the literature, history, culture and languages of Haiti. Following each seminar, students and faculty travel to Gros Mangles to do a service-learning project.

The last group to visit the village built a playground for a local school. While in Haiti the group stayed with Celius’ father, M. Jonas Celius, who is the Haitian facilitator for the dispensary project. Jonas’ wife, Miriam is a 1992 Shippensburg graduate.

“The whole project, an enlightening experience for our students, is a unique Shippensburg story,” said Ragone.

Students and faculty will travel to Gros Mangles next January to begin phase one of the dispensary project.