Olghen Ocean is fed up with seeing others in pain. Growing up in Haiti, he witnessed crippling poverty and violence. When he moved to the U.S., he noticed fellow immigrants and refugees who had hoped to escape the struggles of their home countries often experienced intense loneliness, depression and eventual drug addiction instead.
Rather than ignore it and try to move on from the issues that plagued his childhood, Ocean is dedicating his life to helping others in need.
“Since I was raised in a Third World country, I understand certain life circumstances and I want to help others from common backgrounds who struggle to do things that could be easily accomplished if they just knew who to reach out to,” said Ocean.
Having now lived in Utah for more than eight years, he is in the middle of his first semester at the U. He is involved with the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs and working to grow his nonprofit Caribbean Community of Utah and Friends (CCUF). The organization has helped hundreds of immigrants, refugees and Utahns in need since it began in 2016. With help from the Department of Workforce Services and partner organizations such as Utah Refugee Connection and the Asian Association of Utah, CCUF offers workshops, professional trainings and most importantly—community.
“I’ve met many people who don’t feel like they are part of this society because they don’t speak the language and they come from a very different culture, so they become very lonely and experience various struggles with mental health,” said Ocean. “My goal is to make sure everyone feels loved and supported and to help them look at this as a new beginning and start to a positive chapter in their life.”
Ocean said many of the first people he started working with when he first moved to Utah are now thriving. They have built community through religious groups, are going to school and have greatly improved their physical and mental health.
After finishing his degree in political science, Ocean plans to attend law school at the U and start a career with the United Nations. He wants to begin humanitarian work in Haiti and the rest of the Caribbean, then expand to Africa. It helps that he speaks four languages—English, Spanish, French and Hatian Creole—but it’s his unyielding optimism and desire to make others smile that make him perfect for his chosen field.
“I’ve realized that being part of someone else’s happiness is the greatest feeling in the world,” said Ocean. “I’ve been inspired by many great figures and leaders like Nelson Mandela and I believe if someone has a chance to step forward and make someone else’s life happier, they should.”
Now that Ocean is completing his degree at the U and working part time, he’s hoping to recruit volunteers to help with CCUF. If you’d like to get involved, contact Ocean at firstname.lastname@example.org.