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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! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

There and Back Again

Going to Haiti was probably one of the most eyeopening and life changing events that I will ever experience. I was incredibly nervous about going; the drive to the airport was complete with sweaty palms and jitters. I couldn't believe it was actually happening. Once I arrived and saw a few of the girls and Dr. Russell, I instantly calmed down. I wasn't doing this alone. The flight was long and the layover was tiresome, but we finally arrived in Santiago. We really didn't see much of the city until the next morning after eating breakfast, loading up the bus, and getting on the road. The views were varied. At first it was more of a small city...beachy with palm trees, but filled with a variety of stores and businesses. We stopped at a little resturant called La Madonna where we ate a delicious lunch of rice and beans, plantains (yum!), chicken, and goat. Yes, goat. Of course, I didn't eat the latter two. As we ventured closer and closer to Haiti, the scenery changed to farmland, beautiful mountains, and a much more poverty stricken community. When I saw this, I thought, "Wow, this is what they were talking about." Little did I know, it was only the tip of the iceberg.

View of the houses in the mountainside
and Haitians loading up on a truck 
Street market
The closer we got to the boarder, the more people we saw...and more and more and more. There were SO many people: walking, riding motorbikes, selling things, buying things, riding in trucks, riding on trucks, carrying a dozen chickens, carrying things on their heads, carrying children, you name it, there was probably someone doing it. The streets were crowded with merchants selling foods, clothing, shoes, furniture, and animals. It was market day. The Border opens up two days a week for people to buy and sell between the countries. It was overwhelming and seemingly impossible to drive though, but our bus driver was amazing and he navigated though like it was nothing new. At one point we were nose to nose with another truck! I didn't sit so close to the front of the bus after that. The scariest part was probably when our passports were handed over to a stranger (Allen and Branly knew him) and we watched him walk off into the crowd while we continued to drive though it. Apparently, he was an official that was taking them ahead to the immigration office so we wouldn't have to wait as long, but it was a very nerve-wracking moment. While we waited for our passports to come back, there were people coming up to the bus and peering in, trying to get our attention, or trying to sell us things. It was a bit intimidating, and I almost felt like an animal in the zoo: people walking past my cage, peering in with faces close to the windows for a better look, then walking away when they realized I wasn't that interesting to look at.

Fruit vendors 
Seeing Haiti for the first time was shocking. So many people, still, all over the city. The shops and homes were rundown, paint peeling, rusty tin rooftops, and the garbage..the garbage was everywhere. I couldn't believe how much there was. The lack of infrastructure in Haiti has lead to no sanitation system. The streets are overflowing with the leftovers from breakfast, lunch, dinner, birthdays, holidays, and every other day. Even the beaches (even the one we stayed on, although they kept up with it and cleaned daily) were littered with washed up trash. The ocean is like a human body; it purges the things that are foreign and disagreeable. It's a very sad sight. When I saw the city, it seemed as if the people had just given up; they just didn't want to try anymore. It wasn't until I was outside of the confines of my zoo cage that I really saw Haiti and saw it people and saw their hope.

Children excited to see us as we hiked up to the Citadel on 12/31

Throughout the week we visited the several of our partners. On Friday, it was Let Agogo with Ewaldy Estil from Heifer International. Heifer is an organization that aids agriculture communities in other countries where poverty is rampant. They provide community members with animals and in return, they must "pass on" the animals first offspring to another community member in a ceremony called "passing on the gift." Unfortunately, we did not get to see this ceremony, but the previous years class happened to be there for it. I do not know if this is true for all Heifer projects, but in this community in Haiti, the members are required to give one gallon of milk to Let Agogo each day. Let Agogo uses that milk to create a milk product that has a very long shelf life and does not require refrigeration to be used in children's school lunches. We really got an idea of what Heifer was doing for the community. We also had out first experience interacting with the children that lived nearby. I was a bit nervous to interact with them and kind of hung back and took pictures. I'm not great with kids to begin with, not to mention the complete language barrier. This, of course, changed.


At UNAF, making faces at us from
outside the bus
On our way up the mountains
 to the hotel
Our next stop was the hotel we would be staying at for the week. We stayed at Cormier Plage, a lovely little resort type place right on the ocean and surrounded by mountains. Each day we were able to experience a very bumpy and frightening (the road's edge wasn't too far from the cliff's edge!) drive with some of the most beautiful views. The gorgeous ocean and mountain views were on one side of the road and on the other, rundown homes with children, animals, and adults sitting and watching us go by. The hotel was very nice and the beach was beautiful. The food they served us was always so delicious and they staff were more than accommodating and kind.


Students showing us a Level-A
The next day, Saturday, we went to UNAF, an agriculture college. We met with students, and we were able to socialize with them for a few hours. I met several girls and gave them the bracelets that I made. I also handed out candy that I brought. "Almond Joy" candies were a big hit!  We saw their gardens where they practice the things they learned in classes and how they create them. A few of us, myself included, were able to help them build a "level A" which is used when making their plots. I got to use a machete for the first time. I wasn't very good at it. Katie and Morgan also were able to help build the level. The Dean of Agriculture was there to tell us about their work and how they differ from American farmers. I was really interested in this because when we think about farming, the first things that come to mind are tractors, combines, harvesters, etc. They don't have those things; everything they do is either by hand or with tools that they create. It's really amazing

UNAF students welcomed us with their president, Gedeon Eugene 
Caroline and me with some of the UNAF students
 Thanks to Matt and many other students, We had over 100 textbooks to bring to the university. How amazing it was to be able to give the gift of knowledge. After visiting with the students and trying to get through struggled conversations with our little abilities to speak Creole and their fairly good abilities to speak English, we found that music was a common bond we shared. It's amazing, actually, to think that even though we live such different lives and speak different languages, music is something that joins us all together all over the world. Some of the girls showed them how to do the "cupid shuffle" (I think someone has a video of that!) and we listened to songs on each others phones. Most of the students were very good at speaking English, and they were all self-taught with the help of American rap and R&B music.

Me, Moriah, Erica, Maddie, Casey, Kyrsten, and Kim at UNAF


Purdue University and Universite do Antenor Firmin

Alex (center) and two other children at the orphanage

After UNAF, we went to an orphanage. It was honestly overwhelming at first. Right upon entering, most of the kids latched onto one of us. There were quite a few of them. A 12 year old girl came up to me right away and held onto my arm for most of the next hour. She showed me her room and around their building. I had bracelets that I made to give out and as I started to, there were a few girls that kept asking for more and more. They had plenty, and there were several children that did not receive one. I found this a bit upsetting. They actually started to become more aggressive about it and were shouting "GIVE ME ONE" over and over. I had to tell them I did not have anymore. What really bothered me was that they were hiding them and trying to tell me that they did not get one. They also snatched some away when I was trying to give them to other girls. It was not all of the kids, just two girls in particular. Their behavior, while I understood it, almost ruined my experience there. I didn't see any of the other students with these types of children. There is clearly a hierarchy in this orphanage (and in most, I assume). Please don't get me wrong, I really liked the girls. They were sweet and very fun, but I really just did not care for some of their actions.
Me and one of the children
There one one young boy, Alex, who was VERY thin. It was unbelievable. At one point Branly was handing out crackers and the children swarmed him in excitement. I took a few and wanted to give them to Alex, but these 2 girls grabbed a pack each and I was able to toss the last pack to Morgan to give to the boy. I walked over to him a few minutes later as he was munching on some crackers. There was a lollipop on his lap. Another boy came over and sat next to him and reached out for the lollipop. Alex snarled (best way to describe the sound he made) at the boy and then started to cry. I heard from someone else later that he did not talk. It was so sad to see. We all took pictures outside and played clapping games, a few of the girls even got new hair styles. We presented the children with many many gifts: toys, food, candy, clothes, toothbrushes, eyeglasses, and more. The experience was great and really fun, and it's something I won't forget.

Sunday was UNAF's graduation ceremony and we all got to dress up and go. When we arrived, it was a bit shocking. The ceremony was held in a very nice church that was FULL to the max with families. We were led in down the center isle...almost like a wedding party. Everyone stared and some even took pictures! It was definitely not anything any of us were expecting. We sat in the very front right next to the graduates. The ceremony lasted 2 hours and it was all in French. Gedeon welcomed us (in English) and told the crowd who we were and how we had brought all of the textbooks to the university. It felt really good when everyone applauded us. Dr. Oliver gave a speech (with Branly translating), Dr. Russell shook hands with the graduates after they received their diplomas, and apparently we were all on TV! None of us realized that it was being broadcast LIVE! I mean, we SAW the guy with the camera..he was right in front of us...I even waved! But I assumed it was just to make a video for the students or whoever wanted one. Oh well, I guess I'm famous in Haiti now :]

Part of Northcoast farms
Bee hives at Northcoast
Monday was a VERY busy day. First, we went to visit Northcoast Farms. This is a new, large company started by a man named Andy English (I believe he is American). The farm is focusing on growing various crops such as Aloe and Lemongrass, goat farming, and beekeeping. The bees are a really versatile area of production because they are able to collect the honey and also the wax, which they use to make candles. Some of us got to make candles with the workers. My group went to see the bee production first. The beekeeper showed us their hives and opened one up for us to show the comb progress. It was really cool to see, but because we didn't all have the bee suits, we couldn't get very close. I actually had a bee get stuck in my hair, but the keeper came and pulled it out before the bee stung me. I was a little scared that I was about to get stung in the face! After seeing the bees, we found out that Ewaldy had arrived and wanted to take the Heifer group (my group) to see a Bee CoOp that Heifer was helping start up and they wanted us to present the information we had gathered for them.

Heading to the Bee CoOp
We piled into the Heifer truck with Brandy and Ewaldy and headed a few miles down the road to the CoOp. When we arrived there was a group of older men and women waiting for us. We sat in a circle and Ewaldy introduced us and also the CoOp members. The president of the CoOp explained their mission and progress to us. We found out that they were relatively new to beekeeping and had mostly leaned how to beekeep from other members of the community (we do not know where they learned from). They currently had about 20 hives behind a cornfield. We were able to see these hives a few days later. They were fairly old and beat up, but they seemed to be doing well. The bee keeping community consisted of all older people, and they explained that the reason for this is that younger people are not interested in keeping because they do not have the proper clothing and do not want to get stung. We brought with us two large, filled up binders of information on beekeeping from Purdue entomologists and on goat farming. Maddie also donated a beekeeping starter kit complete with a smoker, gloves, screen hats, and several tools. The members were VERY excited about these items. We also donated eyeglasses and I left the children's clothing, shoes, and toys that my mom and I had purchased with Ewaldy to give out to children in the community that he knew could use the things.


Pinguin fibers that will be
made into rope
Some of the beautiful candles they make
at Northcoast. The black color is achieved
by adding charcoal.  
We headed back to Northcoast Farms and found that the other groups were helping put shredded sugarcane around Aloe plants to help keep moisture in the soil. We helped with this for a few minutes, and they told us about how they made candles and saw the goat breeding project. Apparently, last year when the farm started they had about 10 goats. Now, they have over 30. They also had about 40 bee hives. The farm was REALLY nice and seemed to be doing very well. They also made clothing in the same building (note: this building was about the size of a 30-40 student classroom) and used old fashioned singer sewing machines. There is this really amazing cactus plant that grows in Haiti called Pinguin. It is used almost everywhere as a fence because it grows straight up and can be planted close together. The coolest part about this cactus fence is that you can harvest it. I saw several houses with cactus fences with perfectly cut tops (like you would trim hedges with a hedge trimmer). The cactus fibers are used to make different things including rope! This is just one example of the resourcefulness that I found in the Haitian community.

                                
Beeswax 
Candle making explanation

After we left Northcoast, we headed to the Citadel. The Citadel is a very old fortress that was built in the 1800's to protect Haiti from the French when they returned..they never did. There are hundreds of cannons and cannon balls neatly stacked in different places in the Citadel. It's so beautiful and old, but there's a catch...it's located about 3000ft up a super steep trail that was only about a mile and a half long. We rode the bus as far up as we could but stopped in a parking lot. The rest was up to us. When we got out we were immediately swarmed by people wanting to sell us souvenirs or to ride their horses up to the top. We were NOT riding horses. The poor things were soo thin and had such awful saddle sores. :[ The previous class that went on this trip were asked to ride the horses to give a report on the experience for future tourist. One student reported that their horse was wiped over 100 times and most of the students got off the horses half way to the top and walked.

Even though we did not want to ride the horses, a large group of people followed us up on foot and on horse. The people on foot were "guides" and they talked to us and pointed things out. A young boy designated himself as my guide. His name was Joselyn (not sure if I spelled that right). He spoke very good English and he told me about himself and asked me questions about America. He showed me different landmarks such as a large basin that was used to hold water and a smaller stone building that was a lookout tower. He took my picture for me a few times also. The road/trail was made of stone so it was pretty uneven, and it was VERY steep for the most part. It was really hot out and sunny on and off. I don't think I've ever sweat so much! I made it to the top though and I was so proud. The view was absolutely breathtaking. Miles and miles of mountains were all you could see. The citadel was so old and the stones were moist and had a lot of moss on them. It looked like something out of The Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. We all took several pictures while waiting for everyone to reach the top.While we were waiting the winds brought in a cloud...we were that high up! It was really cool at first because I had never been in a cloud and you could see the air swirling around in it, but it also brought colder air. It was a nice relief at first, but it started to get kind of chilly. We had a tour guide who took us through the large rooms of the Citadel and explained what everything was and the history of the place. It was pretty cool. There were cannons from Spain, France, and England.




My Favorite Things

This entire experience, as many have mentioned before, has been about new experiences, meeting new people, making connections, and in general developing (hopefully) some lifelong friendships. I can definitely say that during this adventure I have done all of those things and more. I will never forget the people that I met, the places that I saw, and the emotions that I felt throughout it all.

I developed some new things to call my favorite along the way. When we visited Morne Rouge orphanage, now that was my favorite.

When we met the students at UNAF and shared similar interests in songs, I can say that was my favorite.


Oh! When we walked the miserable path up to La Citadelle and got to enjoy the amazing view at the top; that was my favorite too.

Or when we got to see all of the accomplishments of the students at CTEAD! Definitely one of my favorite things.


The drive to the hotel, man, that was my favorite. I looked forward to that every single day!

Okay, so maybe I have a lot of favorite moments.... Favorite people..... Favorite memories.... A lot of favorites in general. It's hard to describe this trip in one single blog post. It's hard to tell you how this trip has changed me and the way that I view my life. There are no words to say how generous the people of Haiti were to us. There just aren't enough pictures to show you how beautiful this country is and how connected the people of this land are. This entire trip has been one of the best things that I've ever done in my entire life and I'm pretty sure the whole thing is going down as my most favorite thing so far!

~Casey

New experiences

This trip has been a real eye opener for me and made me see the vastness of the world and all the experiences that it has to offer.  I tried lobster for the first time, swam in the ocean, went out of the United States, stayed up until sunrise for New Year's, and met so many new friends in Haiti and at Purdue.  I experienced what it like to be apart of the racial majority, which was a new experience and like seeing the similarities across the world.  Every time images of Haiti are shown in the U.S.A. they never show the beauty that it has to offer.  The people in Haiti were very welcoming and the smiles on their faces showed true determination.  I was inspired by the people's resourcefulness and meeting people who were the first to embark on new areas of study and those who founded new organizations; in a way we met real live pioneers! The way this trip has expanded me as a person is something I would never trade. I truly enjoyed this experience and value the people I spent it with; love you guys! 

I know that all sounded really cheesy, but hey it's true and it can't be worse than the song titles for Anthony's new Farm House album (lol) 

My experience in Haiti


What an awesome experience! The trip to Haiti was such an eye opening experience. Before visiting the country we learned a lot about how the lack of infrastructure has affected the nation, but it didn’t truly sink in until we crossed the Haitian-Dominican border.

The people in Haiti amazed me. Even though many lived in very difficult situations and struggled to provide for their families they were such open and inviting people. I have a new perspective on life and feel very blessed to live in such a great nation. I have a new appreciation for the little things in life.

My group partnered with UNAF. We had the opportunity to learn how to use the resources that a traditional farmer would have to create a level aid. The university is working to teach the agriculture students practical ways to use the resources they have to work in agriculture. Overall we build great relationships with the students at the university and had a wonderful time getting to know them. I was also completely amazed with the generosity of all of our students. We collected, donated, and packed 104 textbooks which were given to UNAF to stock their new library.

Also on the trip some great friendships among the Purdue students were forged. I left the US truly knowing only one person and returned from Haiti with a new family. This experience has cemented us as a team with a passion to pass on our experiences to the next class to travel to Haiti.  
 
~Katie

Back Home Again in Indiana )=

What an exciting winter break! Words cannot describe all the emotions I felt during our trip to Haiti. Before going on the trip I was nervous to be in a foreign country, I didn't know how well we were all going to get along, and I had no idea what to expect other than what we had been told. I expected to gain knowledge about Haiti and about our group's partner: Heifer International but I did not expect the lifelong friendships I made and the cultural experiences I received. It was a different experience not being about to use a lot of verbal communication to talk due to a language barrier but that made it easy to see the excitement and pride in the eyes of the Haitians. I was kind of shocked at how much more advanced our agriculture in the US was compared to Haiti. I expected them to be behind but not that far behind. We really learned a lot from the students and the people we met. I gained several new friends and have a new found appreciation for the little things such as hot water and water pressure. It also showed me the value of family. I have a close knit family but after seeing the family structure in Haiti it made me appreciate my family even more. It seemed like even in the poorest of conditions they still had something to smile about. I definitely cannot wait to go back and to help continue to improve the lives of those hard working people. 
Words can't even begin to explain my experience traveling abroad to Haiti with 17 other Purdue students. As I'm back at campus starting the Spring Semester, I'm oftened reminded of the life lessons I learned while in Haiti. I truly enjoyed conversing with the students and children there whose passion and desire to gain a better way of life was very clear. They were an inspiration to want to help and allow others to see how good life really can be. It's amazing how positive their mentality was in comparison to many others around the world. I learned that even when our main sense of speech was taken away, relationships can still be formed based off of other senses showing through stronger. The power of a smile is commonly overlooked by many. Although I learned alot about Haiti's culture and way of life, I was surprised with the amount of information I learned about myself. I truly feel that I grew alot as a person even though it was such a short period of time. I know that improving personal relationships is definitely something we shouldn't take for granted and someday...I hope to go back :)
Boiler UP,
Bailey

How I spent my Christmas Break!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Christmas Break!

This past Christmas break was very different from any other Christmas break I have experienced in the past. I not only met many new friends but I was able to open my eyes to all the different cultures in Haiti. Many of us know that the culture in Haiti is very different than ours in the U.S. but I don't think you truly understand what it is like until you experience it first hand, and I am sure many of my classmates would agree. While in Haiti we did various things ranging from visiting the UNAF and donating over a hundred textbooks to visiting an orphanage where we had suitcases full of donated items. Being able to interact with the students at the university was one of my favorite parts of the trip, they were so excited to show you around and tell you all about what they are doing at school. Just seeing their faces and how happy they were for us just being there made it worth it and I knew that with the books we donated them and the relationships that we started we will be able to continue helping them.
If asked to go back to Haiti I would say yes in a heart beat, I feel that it really did give me a new outlook on life. I am blessed for what we have in the here in the United States and I feel it is now our job to not only help others but provide them the knowledge to succeed in their careers and life.

-Shelby Englert

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Experiences through the New Year


**Originally Written Tuesday January 1st.

Looking back, I cannot believe that tomorrow is our last full day in Haiti. At the beginning of the trip the days seemed to go by really slow. I think part of that has to do with the serene atmosphere at our hotel. You can always hear the waves crashing against the beach. When we are out working and interacting with our partners though the day goes by super fast. 

When we were at the university on Saturday, we talked with the students for a few hours and it seemed like no time at all. One of my favorite memories was talking eith Reggie and talking about different kinds of music and then being able to teach him the Cupid Shuffle.  After visiting the Antenor Firmin University, we went to visit the orphanage.  I was definitely hesitant about visiting the orphanage unsure of how in need the children are.  We were immediately greeted with smiles and the kids all latched on to someone.  Playing with the kids at the orphanage for the few hours we were there seemed like no more than a half hour had passed by.  Sarah who hung around with me the entire time loved my hair and gave me a new hairstyle.  I normally wouldn't wear my hair in the pigtail style she gave me but it made me happy to help her pass the time doing something she wouldn't normally do.  I couldn't communicate with her very easily as she knew little English, but I did find out that she was 18 years old.  She didn't want to play soccer with the other kids but spent the time watching everyone and telling me I was beautiful.  I left the orphanage feeling sad that we had to leave so soon but I was proud of all of the gifts we were able to provide.  Between last year's class fundraising money to provide food for the kids and all of my class' donations, we had more than enough gifts for two orphanages.  

On Sunday, we attended the Antenor Firmin University graduation ceremony.  Dr. Oliver participated by giving a speech with the help of Branley translating.  I definitely felt like an honored guest as we were given the same flower pins as the graduates.  Even though I could not understand what was being said throughout the two hour ceremony, it was interesting to see.  I appreciated having Purdue and all of us there being publicly recognized during the ceremony for the vast amount of textbooks we had donated.  In total, I think we gathered at least 105 books to give to the university.  Gideon Eugene was also excited about the chemistry labs that we could possibly bring in the future.  

Monday was a very busy day for the group.  We woke up bright and early to have breakfast and visit North Coast Farms.  While there, a group was able to make candles from beeswax.  The molds for the candles were beautiful and they had different candles ranging from two kinds of angels, flowers, and cool spheres.  Edson gave my group a tour of the rest of the farm and we learned a lot about the different plants being grown and what they were used for.  He also took us to see the goats which they have been breeding.  He said when they started, they had only ten goats and were up to 34 goats now.  He had questions for us about them such as how soon they should be bred and I could see the need of a different kind of mating system or crossbreeding to be done to help improve the milk production of the goats.  There will soon be a cheese factory built so the milk from the goats will be very important for its success.  After leaving the farm, we started the journey to the Citadelle.  It was an intense drive most of the way up until we reached a parking lot and had to walk the rest of the way.  We were told the walk would take about 45 minutes from that point, and it was definitely a workout.  The path was very steep at points and challenged most of us athletically I think.  When I reached the top where the Citadelle was, it was a beautiful view.  We were going to tour the inside of the Citadelle but we needed to wait for the rest of the group before we started the tour.  While waiting, some clouds blew in and we were inside the clouds.  The view disappeared to a fog and it became really cold.  Unfortunately we missed out on being to see the view from the top of the Citadelle because the clouds blocked the view.  Because we were so high up, our tour guide said that the clouds move in and that happens fairly frequently, so we just had a little bit of bad luck.  We then headed back to the hotel for a long night of dancing bringing in the new year.  

The next day we just stayed at the hotel resting and recuperating from all of the New Years celebrations.  A good number of people were able to stay up until the sunrise.  I could not stay up past 4, but I did wake up again at 6 to be able to see the sunrise.  I had planned like most to lay out on the beach for most of the day and tan, but unfortunately, this was the only rainy and cloudy day we had on the trip.  We did find time to make the Boilermaker Special in the sand which was finished to actually look like a train by Sarah and me. 



 Tomorrow I am looking forward to visiting CTEAD, as my group is looking to collect as much information as we can to help this partner in the future.  The week has passed by so quickly but I feel like we are learning a lot and are definitely becoming a close knit group.

Boiler Up, 

Kim Karlin