As a native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Covington Bien-Aime knows full well the devastating toll of natural disasters. He lived through the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 of his fellow Haitians and displaced another 3 million.
So when Bien-Aime, an MBA student in the Manning School of Business, learned about the opportunity this summer to help rebuild homes for flood victims in South Carolina through lecturer Olga Tines
’ course Organizational Behavior in Action, he couldn’t say no.
“Haiti has been helped by a lot of people from a lot of countries, so I’m glad I had the opportunity to give a hand to South Carolina. That was meaningful for me,” says Bien-Aime, who along with Manning School undergrads Chelsie Hebert and Rahman Sarwar spent a week repairing homes in Andrews, S.C., a town that was heavily flooded following Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015.
This is the second consecutive summer that Tines has run the three-credit directed study course in conjunction with All Hands Volunteers, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization that provides relief to those affected by natural disasters around the world. In 2015 Tines took six students
to Brooklyn, N.Y., to help rebuild homes for victims of Superstorm Sandy.
In addition to working with All Hands Volunteers to lay flooring, hang drywall and paint, Bien-Aime and his classmates analyzed the structure of the volunteer organization through embedded research. They interviewed the All Hands CEO via Skype and spoke with managers and volunteers on the ground, learning about all layers of the organization.
“Through their research, students compare and contrast what they see in an organic, communal organization like All Hands versus what they see in traditional organizations like the Red Cross,” says Tines.
For his final report, Bien-Aime was asked to play the role of consultant and make recommendations on how the organization could improve its structure. Tines says one of his suggestions was successfully implemented at the work site.
“It’s not difficult work, and everyone is given the opportunity to do the task, which makes it easier for all the volunteers,” says Bien-Aime, who hopes to volunteer with All Hands again in the future. “You have the freedom to do what you choose to do, but you have to do it efficiently.”
Tines, who plans to continue offering the course this academic year, was struck by how devastating the floods were in Andrews.
“Some areas were hit with more than 20 inches of rain. They were calling it a thousand-year flood,” says Tines, who had the students go into community and interview three locals on the first day of the program. The students also met with the town’s mayor, Frank McClary, to get his perspective on the recovery.
“The folks were so open and welcoming, pulling out pictures to share with us,” Tines says. “They really appreciated the work our students were doing.”