Travel to Serve Spotlight: Meet Marquise

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The Haitian-American Nomad Serving the Globe

As a budding globe trotter and soccer enthusiast, Marquise has made it a point to take advantage of every opportunity to travel, even if it’s just to catch a Borussia Dortmund game in Germany, which she’s done before. Her global perspective and love for travel began at home where she understood just how big the world was at an early age. With parents who immigrated from the beautiful country of Haiti, Marquise traveled to the island often for family and service trips. Through this upbringing, she has always been interested in exploring new places, meeting people of different backgrounds, and the occasional soccer game abroad. Modeling this love for travel and strong desire to help others after her parents, she continues to “travel to serve” throughout college and beyond!


Service Location: Uganda
Date of Travel: June – August, 2009
Organization: “DukeEngage,” a program partnership between Duke University + Mbarara University Hospital + Mayanja Memorial Hospital

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Tell us about yourself.  What are you passionate about and what motivates you?

I am Haitian-American, grew up across different parts of the United States, and have traveled domestically and internationally. I love to explore new cities and learn about different people and cultures. I also enjoy revisiting places I’ve been, building upon experiences and creating homes away from home.

Where do you live, work, and play?

I have lived in Los Angeles, CA for almost 5 years. I am a graduate student studying Social Work, and I also work in Sports Television (I LOVE soccer — the world’s sport!). Whenever I have time, I try to escape to the beach which helps me feel grounded and relaxed.

Why did you decide to travel abroad and volunteer your time?

At that time, I was a student at Duke University pursuing my interest in medicine and I also wanted an opportunity that would push me out of my comfort zone. This program focused on maternal healthcare and I thought I could have a great experience working with a new population while also spending time on a continent I never thought I would have the chance to visit! This was my first trip far away from home without my family and I definitely jumped right into the deep end.

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What was your selection process in choosing an organization to serve with and what about its mission moved you to sign up?

The college I went to started a new program at the time where they sent undergraduate students around the world to work on different projects. There were few programs that focused on community/public health and, again, I wanted to take advantage of going to Africa while I could! While in Uganda, we partnered with a university hospital and a private clinic. We would spend 1 day per week in the hospital and then travel with doctors from the private clinic to different remote communities to provide immunizations, ultrasounds, and other basic medical services for men, women, and children.

What was your overall service experience, i.e. was it challenging, amazing, or everything in between?

It was great! I really enjoyed being among the people in the different communities we visited and it was amazing to be a part of something that really had an impact on people, physically and emotionally.

What fears or concerns did you have to overcome in order to do this trip?

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Other than feeling completely unqualified to offer any medical care whatsoever, I was mostly worried about how long I would be away from the U.S. The program was 9 weeks in total which is unique for serving abroad, unless one is moving to another country. I find that, no matter how much I travel, there are always things from your homeland that seem more convenient or comfortable, just because you are used to it. However, because we were always busy and working and, in our time off, discovering new places and activities, the time went by quickly and I became comfortable quickly.

Also, it was very interesting being a black American woman traveling in a predominantly black nation — there seemed to be an expectation that I should understand things about the culture and the country but I came in just as fresh as my peers but continued to be “othered” because I looked Ugandan, so to speak. So this was sometimes an isolating experience for me.

What did you learn about yourself on this trip specifically?

I learned that I’m stronger than I thought I was! I learned that I was capable of things that I had never done before and that it doesn’t hurt to try something, even if it’s scary (e.g., rafting in the Nile river without knowing how to swim…please don’t follow my lead on this one…).

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How can we contact the organization and participate in a service trip?!!

Unfortunately, this program was specific to my school and open to public volunteers.  However, I suggest figuring out what you’re interested in or what you want to learn more about (OR think of a place you want to visit) and then finding a local organization that you can volunteer with.

Do you recommend others to travel to serve? Why or why not?  

Absolutely! I would definitely recommend finding an organization that is already on the ground in whatever country you’re visiting and has established relationships in the community and seeing how you can help. Sometimes, with service trips, a group of people are plopped in a place to do a project and then leave right after. I think it is important to allow local entities to continue to empower their own people, while providing skills training from volunteers and other partners to add value to their work.

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Where is your favorite place that you’ve visited and why?

I’m going to give 2 very different answers for this: San Diego and Amsterdam. I don’t know what it is about both of these places but whenever I’ve visited there, I have felt more at home than some of the places I’ve lived!

What advice can you offer to someone traveling (abroad) for the first time?

You’ll never be able to plan for every single eventuality or difficult scenario so don’t stress too much about that. Make your plans but try to be open to changing them. You might meet a group of people that you connect with and decide to spend a day with them. Or you might be really tired and not want to do yet another tour so find a chill park and take time to relax. Don’t rush to see everything all at once. Instead, enjoy where you are as much as you can and know that, someday, you can always go back.

ALSO, always have your purse/wallet close to you and don’t bring all your money with you at once (or in the same place). Pickpocketing is REAL and VERY common so always be mindful.

Last also — and this is just a personal preference — but instead of paying for tours/tour buses, map out some places you want to see on your own and make your own tour. Some of these paid excursions are overpriced and there’s not much room to break off from the pack. Give yourself time and space to explore at your own pace!

What are your top 3 reasons why everyone should travel?

  1. The world is too big not to see!
  2. It’s a great way to learn about yourself and other people.
  3. You gain a deeper appreciation for nature, humanity, history, culture, etc.


Where is the next place on your travel list?

Hard question! Currently I’m teetering between “finishing Europe” (still a long way to go) or branching out further east or south. I’ll be in Haiti this December & next April, and next summer hopefully Germany (and neighboring places!).




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