Follow by Email

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Blessings learned in Haiti


Today I sat in my major professor’s office, and as I told him about my experiences in Haiti I realized tears began to roll down my cheeks.  Tears of heartbreak for the children we saw struggling to get by in the streets, tears of happiness as I remembered the excitement in the voices of the students we met at the university, and tears of joy as I think about all of the students who let me join them during this amazing experience.

Now don’t worry, I wear my emotions on my sleeve and my advisor has seen me cry plenty of times.  I am currently a Masters student in the Animal Sciences department and I had the pleasure of serving as a graduate TA for the course.  Many of the students have expressed their experiences and impressions of the trip and I would echo what they have already said.  Therefore, I want to express to you how amazing this group of students is and how they are the ones responsible for the success of this trip.

I have worked with several student organizations, countless group projects, and this was my third study abroad trip… However, no other group has come close to touching this group.  Every student could not have been more different from one another, but when the work needed to be done they stepped up, completed the task, and worked together like a well-oiled machine.  No challenge was too big or small.  They all brought their talents and knowledge together to successfully face any obstacle we encountered during the course.  They hung out together, bonded, and acted as though they had all been friends for a lifetime.

Every one of these students has inspired me, touched my life, and helped me grow as an individual.  Thank you all for allowing me to develop my teaching skills, participating in this course, and for your friendship.  I hope you enjoyed this experience and learned a little more about agriculture, your world view, and the true meaning of service learning.

Of course I could not end without thanking Dr. Oliver, Dr. Russell, Brantley, Blu, Maddie and everyone who made this trip possible and allowed me to participate. 

And I am truly blessed to have had this experience and be a part of this extraordinary group.

-(Aunt) Meg

Monday, January 14, 2013

At the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic
     Never in my life have I seen a more beautifully broken country than Haiti. Every step I took there was one life-changing moment after the other. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure how I would feel arriving in a third world country after spending all of my life living in my cozy, first-world bubble. When we first crossed the border from the Dominican Republic into Haiti, I wondered what all of those people crowding the streets thought of us - a bus full of Americans. Were they happy to see us? Were they as curious as we were? There was such a stark contrast between those two neighboring countries; the paved roads disappeared, grocery stores and car dealers vanished, and the number of people on the streets grew exponentially.
  When we finally arrived in Cap-Haitien, I was amazed at how crowded the streets were (half the time I was clutching my seat for dear life as our gigantic seventies-style bus navigated the narrow streets). Some were closed off just for selling merchandise. And as we drove through to get to our secluded hotel on the beach, I was mesmerized by how colorful everything was. No shops had neon signs or big block letters; everything was painted in fancy lettering. But it was obvious that the city was too congested for its own good.
   Visiting UNAF and the orphanage on one of our first days in Cap-Haitien was probably one of my favorite experiences on the trip. I wanted to practice my French so badly with the students we met, but I was nervous about making a fool of myself. Luckily, I found that any communication at all with the university students was enough to make them happy. Some students would hear that I spoke french and would eagerly come up to me to introduce themselves. I only wish that I were more fluent in order to get to know them all better. I had a similar experience at the orphanage, Terre Rouge, where I spoke french with many of the children. This made them smile and laugh (most likely at my funny accent) and made it easier for us to get to know one another. My favorite part of that visit was when a few of us taught a group of girls a silly game where you sing a song and avoid getting your hand slapped. Then after we were done playing our game, they showed us their version of the same game (in French though, of course). I even got to play soccer with a few of the boys at the orphanage. They were so good for their age!


However, climbing La Citadelle was also top on my list of memories. Despite the incline being ridiculous and being pretty darn out of shape, making it to the top was glorious! A small Haitian boy walked with me all the way to the top, and occasionally he would ask me, "Are you tired?" and I would wheeze a reply, "Yes! I'm exhausted.." I would then ask him the same question, and he would smile proudly and say, "Nope!" Little bugger..
     My New Years Eve in Haiti was also one of my favorite New Years of all time. It can't get much better than dancing all night with a fun group of people, and basically being in paradise. Ceremoniously, we all held hands and ran into the ocean right as the clock struck midnight. Most of us stayed up till sunrise to go swimming. But honestly, I was having so much fun that I didn't even realize that the sun was coming up. It wasn't until I got to breakfast with Erica that I realized how slap-happy and tired I was. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep mid-conversation at one point.
    But I also had a great time visiting North Coast Farms, Let Agogo, and CTEAD. All of them had really interesting projects going on, and our hope was that Heifer International, CTEAD and UNAF would eventually work and improve together.
    I think the last memory that stayed in my mind as we left the country of Haiti was when we visited a small village on one of our last days. I played a monkey-in-the-middle soccer  game with a large group of boys, while most of the girls taught the other kids how to sing Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. It made me realize that connecting with a group of people doesn't necessarily entail speaking their language, but finding something in common with them that doesn't require any words at all. For me, soccer was my universal language.
   I probably won't be able to tell you how this trip has changed me and in how many different ways until many years from now. But I can say that it's an experience that will forever remind me to be grateful for what I have, to always be open to new people and cultures, and to know that even small changes can lead to great progression.

Caroline Chumakov

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Reflecting on my experiences

by Liz Lecher

Trying to get back in the swing of classes and work schedules, I am constantly reminded of the amazing time I had in Haiti. This trip was truly a life changing experience. It seems that everyone else had done a fantastic job describing what we did each day so I will mainly focus on how this trip made an imact on my life. While crossing the border from the Dominican Republic into Haiti, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I never imagined there would be that many people even after finding out that it was open market day. It amazes me how the two countries can be connected on the same island and have so many differences.

The connections we all have made with the students we worked with in Haiti are a constant reminder of the impact we had on their lives. I have been contacted every day by students wanting to practice English and needing help on various plans they have made to take back to their family farms. I feel like we were able to not only change our lives, but change the lives of the students we worked with.

I think we were able to make a lot of progress while working with our partners. We now have an idea of what we need to do in the future to help them and what they need. The main point was to find out the main goals of each program and their plans for the future. From there we can determine how Purdue fits into those plans. I think some of the partnerships are very beneficial, while in others I am not sure our class will be able to help progress the program of the organization.

I am very thankful for the opportunity to participate in this class and trip to Haiti. I made a lot of new friends and have memories that will last a lifetime!

Elizabeth Lecher

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Better Late Than Never!



By: Erica Doyle


I remember prior to my trip to Haiti many people questioned my decision. After all, when many students think of studying abroad, going to a third world country is not their ideal destination. For me, however, it was. Looking back on my trip I am 100% positive that signing up for this course and traveling to Haiti was one of the best decisions I have made in my life.

Traveling into Haiti and seeing the city, Cap-Haitien, for the first time really humbled me. Our bus went from everyone chattering happily to silence and words of shock. I was very humbled as I looked out our bus window and realized that places like this really do exist. It is so easy for me to get caught up in my everyday life where my only worries are school related and petty, that I forget that there are real problems people are facing throughout the world. For the first time my eyes were truly opened to the real problem. I was there as a witness, immersed within it all, and it was unavoidable. I knew that within the next week I would become more aware of the problems this country faces and grow and discover who I really am and what matters in my life.

As the week progressed, I did change and I noticed many of my classmates did as well. We all witnessed a great deal and accomplished a lot. We became closer as friends and built relations with students and faculty at the university and other schools. Everyone including me stepped outside of his or her comfort zone for an entire week. In my mind, I feel that I became more patient and comfortable with the people around me. Even coming back to Indiana, I feel that I am more patient and thus far have not gotten caught up with petty little things. I am glad that I had the opportunity to travel to Haiti with such a great group of people. By the end of the trip I did not want to leave. Life there was simple and many of the things that caused problems in my life back home didn't matter while I was there.

If I am ever presented with the chance to go back to Haiti and expand on the relations we started there, I would say yes in a heartbeat. When people ask me if I went on a mission trip I say no with a smile on my face. While those who go on mission trips help families build homes and provide them with necessities, we did so much more than that. It is just like the saying, "Give a man a fish, you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish, you have fed him for a lifetime." We went to Haiti to teach man to fish. We taught about agriculture, we listened to what their goals and plans were, and we worked together, forgetting about color and forgetting our backgrounds, as one. I am glad to say that what we did while down there has the potential to have so much more impact on that community that digging a well or building a house because in the end knowledge is the best gift one could ever give.



Thursday, January 10, 2013

Head Still Spinning

This trip wasn't what I expected it to be, it was a richer and more authentic experience than what I could have imagined it to be.

The most rewarding part of the trip, for me, was working with all of our partners.

My group's main focus was a new, four year university in downtown Cap-Haitian. The students at UNAF were an incredible bunch of young men and women. Sometimes, it is difficult to appreciate all the opportunities I have been offered to receive advanced education. Where I grew up, college is just the next step on the way to a career. It is fully expected that you will attend a four year program, that you will find a way to pay for it (whether that is loans or savings), you will graduate and start your real life. Some of the students saw their schooling at UNAF in a similar manner, those with families that owned substantial amounts of land or industry. Most of them did not. College truly was their best way to raise themselves up from their socioeconomic circumstances and provide for their family and future families. And they loved to learn. Each student owns a small garden plot to practice lecture material in, and a few of them showed us their crops. Seeing the pride my friend Jojo had in his 20'x4' raised bed of soil surprised me. I was a student from one of the best engineering and agricultural universities in the world, but he wasn't intimidated or bashful about his own modest facilities and curriculum. He grabbed my hand and told me all about it, in English learned by listening to American hip-hop and R&B music. I should write Jay Sean a thank you note, because without his  music I would have never gotten the chance to learn about Jojo.

Haitian people are much more verbally and physically intimate than what I was comfortable with initially. I guess when you are only going to see someone for a few hours, sticking with small talk doesn't make much sense. By the time I left UNAF, I was convinced that while the university has many opportunities for improvement, its students are top notch. They have a hunger that you only see in people that are convinced they really can pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

In Cap-Haitian, education is invaluable. There was so much hope, in a place many people would deem hopeless. It doesn't guarantee a better life, but it gives you a chance and for the 60 or so students at UNAF, that was good enough reason to work, learn and fight their way to an advanced degree.

The days spent with Heifer International and CTEAD were just as exciting and thought provoking. Purdue has picked a diverse, welcoming and passionate base of partners for students to interact and work with. The relationships aren't perfect. They are just getting started and I think both sides are still working to find the best way to help one another, but the work this group did in Haiti and will continue to do made a difference and the value of these partnership will grow over time.

A side note on the students and faculty I traveled with:

I've been blown away by the quality of students and faculty that joined this program. 


We hit road bumps as a group (literally and figuratively), and all had personal struggles throughout the trip, but we stuck together. This group was as kind, inviting, genuine, honest and resilient as any group I've been involved with in my collegiate career and I've been in a few. I had an enormous smile on my face walking back into class for the beginning of the Spring portion of the class,   as I saw all of the people I became so close to in a short period of time.


My expectation for how much I would grow personally and how much fun I would have were both surpassed, and all the credit is due to Dr. Oliver, Dr. Russell, Dr. Eugene, Blucher, Maddie, Megan, and the study abroad staff. They were a tremendous team and put together a superb program.
Second side note:
Thanks to everyone who stayed up with me on my 21st birthday, it was phenomenal. I saw the sun rise on the ocean for the first time, on New Years Day, it was also phenomenal. It's my goal to send at least 2 engineers on the trip next year, we're not all socially awkward and we come in handy if you forgot your calculator at home.

Friends, Fellow Bloggers, Countrymen (College of Ag students), lend me your ears!!


Written by: Logan Ricke
Published by: Anthony Ruberti

What I have to summarize is a life experience that was so moving, so vast that I’ll never be able to shake from my character. My winter service study abroad in Haiti pushed me to leave the only place I ever knew (Southeastern Indiana) and travel overseas to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I came back with images burned into my brain that will not soon be forgotten. Everything from the streets to the people, from the water to the food was different than what I’m used to.

Growing up I was told to appreciate what I have and “you don’t know how good you got it here”. Well, after a week in Haiti, these are some of the most useful life lessons to learn and learn early. Being an average standing student at a major university, I sometimes feel like just a number, but traveling abroad into a foreign country with the intention of doing good, I realized that the native people there didn’t care about anything other than my intentions. My intentions were good and that was all that mattered to them. I was even looked up to by students because of what I accomplished. The people there were so curious about life at Purdue and how they could get the chance to study there. They wanted to know everything about me: from how many years I had been in school, to my favorite music, and even how big my family was. No matter how vague some answers may have been like “I have ten people in my family,” they went berserk with every response and would fire off more questions.

The United States is more or less a big brother to developing countries, and I understand now that it’s our duty to assist these less privileged countries in their growth rather than sit idly by while they’re “crashing their bicycles” time and time again. If we taught them “how to ride the bike”, they could do it themselves after that. I think that is our role in the world, but this doesn’t mean, “get in and get out”. I believe (after this trip) that we should teach them how to help themselves. This method was what the traveling group practices and what I believe will benefit Haiti the most in the long run.

Ben Franklin once said, “…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.” This goes hand in hand with this group’s mission, and even though this trip has ended, our mission isn’t completed.

It was a privilege to get to see more of the world through this trip, and I cannot begin to thank everybody involved with this trip for playing a part in one of the most influential weeks of my life. Especially Dr. Russell and Dr. Oliver for coordinating such a memorable trip, Thank You to Branly and Blucher for their expertise of the area and patience with everybody, and lastly Thank You to all participants and travelers of the trip.

We all truly made a difference and you’re all a pretty cool group of people to travel with! 

Written by: Logan Ricke
Published by: Anthony Ruberti 

What I have to summarize is a life experience that was so moving, so vast that I’ll never be able to shake from my character. My winter service study abroad in Haiti pushed me to leave the only place I ever knew (Southeastern Indiana) and travel overseas to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I came back with images burned into my brain that will not soon be forgotten. Everything from the streets to the people, from the water to the food was different than what I’m used to.

Growing up I was told to appreciate what I have and “you don’t know how good you got it here”. Well, after a week in Haiti, these are some of the most useful life lessons to learn and learn early. Being an average standing student at a major university, I sometimes feel like just a number, but traveling abroad into a foreign country with the intention of doing good, I realized that the native people there didn’t care about anything other than my intentions. My intentions were good and that was all that mattered to them. I was even looked up to by students because of what I accomplished. The people there were so curious about life at Purdue and how they could get the chance to study there. They wanted to know everything about me: from how many years I had been in school, to my favorite music, and even how big my family was. No matter how vague some answers may have been like “I have ten people in my family,” they went berserk with every response and would fire off more questions.

The United States is more or less a big brother to developing countries, and I understand now that it’s our duty to assist these less privileged countries in their growth rather than sit idly by while they’re “crashing their bicycles” time and time again. If we taught them “how to ride the bike”, they could do it themselves after that. I think that is our role in the world, but this doesn’t mean, “get in and get out”. I believe (after this trip) that we should teach them how to help themselves. This method was what the traveling group practices and what I believe will benefit Haiti the most in the long run.

Ben Franklin once said, “…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.” This goes hand in hand with this group’s mission, and even though this trip has ended, our mission isn’t completed.

It was a privilege to get to see more of the world through this trip, and I cannot begin to thank everybody involved with this trip for playing a part in one of the most influential weeks of my life. Especially Dr. Russell and Dr. Oliver for coordinating such a memorable trip, Thank You to Branly and Blucher for their expertise of the area and patience with everybody, and lastly Thank You to all participants and travelers of the trip.

We all truly made a difference and you’re all a pretty cool group of people to travel with!