Thursday, February 5, 2015

Haiti Study Abroad: 10 Days That Changed My Life

While at Purdue I have been offered so many amazing opportunities. Studying abroad in Haiti on Purdue’s Animal and Food Security Service Learning Trip was one of the best opportunities here that I have pursued. It was ten days that changed my life forever.

Just a few days after Christmas, I left home to travel across the ocean to Cap Haitian, Haiti for a trip I had been preparing for all semester. I went with a group of twenty students and two professors. Our main project was partnering with two universities in Haiti and putting on a two day symposium teaching student about sustainable agriculture. Our group broke into five different teams- Poultry, Chemistry, Crops, Bio-digester, Food and Water, and Goats. I was on the crops team. Each team prepared all semester for what they were going to lecture on and do demonstrations over. The symposium went so well! My group focused on planting practices, irrigation, soil, and seed storage. It was amazing how interested everyone was in the information that we taught them. Unlike most students in the U.S., everyone in Haiti was so eager to learn! 

Though the symposium was our main project, but we also did a variety of different things on our trip. One of my favorite things was visiting an orphanage in Haiti. We walked to the orphanage, opened the gates, and got tackled by a heard of little kids wanting us to play and love on ‘em. It was the sweetest thing I have ever experienced, and leaving those sweet kids was also the hardest thing I have ever had to do. At the orphanage I donated a huge suitcase full of hygiene items, my friend donated fifty shirts, and we all put money together to buy them about three months’ worth of food. 

One day we were solely tourists. We traveled south of Cap-Haitian to visit the Citadelle. The Citadelle is a large mountaintop fortress.  Before climbing to the top of this very large mountain we examined the horses at bottom. These horses were in terrible shape. They were dehydrated, malnourished, and had huge sores on them that will never heal because they had no medicine to treat them.  We talked to the owners and asked questions about their management programs and learned more about how we can help them in the future. We are thinking about starting a horse team in the future. Finally we started climbing. It was very difficult, and I thought I was going to die. I did talk my professor into letting me ride a motorcycle up part way. Though the hike made my body ache and ache the view at the top was incredibly beautiful.

On the last day in Haiti we visited Heifer International, and they took us to one of the poorest villages in Haiti’s countryside. I have never seen such poverty. They showed us their goat programs that they are starting in the village, and we toured a cattle pasture and saw Heifer International teaching veterinary practices and how they work their cattle. It was much different from how we do things in the US, but it was exciting to see them making efforts in taking care of their livestock. This was not a common practice in Haiti.

While in Haiti I ate food that I thought I would never try. I played with sweet little kids on the street every day and not one of them could speak English. I climbed to the top of a huge mountain. I built relationships that will last a lifetime, learned and taught about agriculture, and took a huge leap out of my comfort zone. I saw devastation that I thought could never exist. This trip impacted my life in many ways. Haiti is so beautiful and so devastating at the same time. The biggest thing that I learned while I was there is that life is not about making money; it is about using your talent to serve the world. I went to Haiti to serve others. I am not sure that I changed any lives while I was there, but I know for a fact that they changed mine.

Purdue has many study abroad trips. If you decide to come to Purdue I highly encourage you to take a step out of your comfort zone and become a little more cultured. 

~Michaela Turner 

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