Exploring Opportunities in Haiti

 

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By: Caitlin Powers

ALEC faculty traveled to the Live Beyond and Christianville organizations, based in Haiti, to explore opportunities for the ALEC department and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to partner and collaborate in an international setting.

Professor Gary Briers, Ph.D., and Professor James Lindner, Ph.D., along with Joe Masabni, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of horticultural sciences, visited the organizations whose primary mission is to improve the quality of life for the people in Haiti, September 5-11.

“Our primary purpose was to look opportunities for our students to conduct research, do internships and to have field experiences in Haiti,” Lindner said.

The team envisioned the department and college potentially having a role in achieving the missions of these organizations while also providing opportunities for graduate students.

“We are looking at building a relationship, between us and these two organizations where we have a long term continuous presence in Haiti,” Linder said. “Helping them deal with their agricultural and educational related needs.”

The Live Beyond organization chooses to “Live Beyond ourselves, our culture, our borders and this life so that others can Live Beyond disease, hunger, poverty and despair,” according to their website. The organization was founded by Dr. David Vanderpool whose son, David Stallings Vanderpool, is a graduate student in the department.

Dr.Vanderpool had contacted Dean and Vice Chancellor for the College of Agriculture and Life   Sciences Mark Hussey, Ph.D. about seeing if the college was interest in sending a horticultural specialist to Live Beyond. Masabni was designated to go but had never been to Haiti.

Manuel Piña, Ph.D, associate professor in the department had traveled with Briers in July to Haiti where they visited the Christianville organization. Piña and Briers had heard about the faith-based organization that provides humanitarian assistance in Haitifrom ALEC graduate student Emily Purdue. Christianville was looking for an agricultural education partner and had selected the department. Briers and Piña were then invited to come down and have a look.

Masabni found out Briers and Piña had traveled to Haiti already and sought them out for advice. A meeting with Hussey, Vanderpool, Masabni, Briers, Piña and Lindner was the result. Masabni, Briers and Lindner then travelled to Haiti in September to explore opportunities there.

Briers traveled to Christianville to see what progress had been made since his visit in July. The leaders of Christianville then brought Briers to Live Beyond, located three hours away in Thomazeau.

“They are related because we helped make the connection,” Briers said. “They are doing similar kinds of things.”

In addition to seeking out opportunities for collaboration at Thomazeau, Masabni, Briers and Lindner conducted outreach programs for the local farmers. The outreach programs included demonstrations on composting and integrated pest management, training on nutrition and dietary needs and a goat raising informational.

“The biggest thing we did,” Lindner said, “was listen to the farmers and the leader in the community to try and understand what their needs were.”

While there they met with the mayor and head of extension specialists for Thomazeau.

“There are multiple opportunities for internships, research and outreach activities at both locations,” Briers said.

By talking with them along with the farmers from the community proved to Masabni, Lindner and Briers that opportunity is present for the department and the college in Haiti.

“It is the right thing to do,” Lindner said. “We need to be in Haiti and the Haitian people need us.”

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A program is in the progress of being planned and will hopefully be available by January 2014 for graduate students in the department and college. For more information at the program, contact James Lindner, Ph.D. at j-linder@tamu.edu or Gary Briers, Ph.D. at g-briers@tamu.edu.

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