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Monday, February 14, 2011

My Trip to Haiti

Over the past winter break, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Haiti. I went with a group from St. Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic Church that is located on Purdue’s campus. Sixteen other students and I traveled to Haiti’s country side and stayed in a small village called Baudin. We were there for six days.

Within those six days, we were able to help a few Haitian construction workers rebuild a library that was part of St. Francis Xavier church, a “sister” parish that St. Thomas Aquinas Church is partnered with. Approximately one year after the earthquake, it was pretty evident that not a whole lot has been done to reconstruct many of the buildings in Haiti. This library was one of them. During our first day there, we took down the rest of the roof that was still hanging, reorganized books and furniture that were in the building, cleaned up debris, and hammered down two concrete platforms. The theme of our labor was “ROCK RECYCLING” on the other days. We moved approximately one ton of rock from the pile of broken down wall to another area in order to create a foundation for part of another building. Then, we sifted through another ton of rock in order extract sand that was later used to create cement for the cinder block for the new wall that we built. By the end of our stay, we finished the final part of the library wall.

Because my majors are in Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences, I noticed many things about the Haitian work conditions. Those conditions were not good. First, because these Haitians did not have the basic tools necessary to complete their jobs in a safe manner, they had to resort to hard, physical labor in order to accomplish their tasks. Jobs that would normally take one day to do in America would take seven days to do in Haiti. Workers were standing on broken chairs to reach high corners of the wall, and all of them were working in flip flops or Crocs that were falling apart.

It breaks my heart to see people work in these kinds of conditions, and I’m sure any OSHA inspector who saw these things would have a heart attack. But even though these conditions are unacceptable in the United States, it is the only way things can get done in Haiti. The adults and children in Haiti are hard working individuals who experience the joys of life every day, even through the hardships of having to live impoverished lives. There is a ton that we Americans, including myself, can learn from them!

Going to Haiti reconfirmed what I want to do after I graduate from Purdue: to work for a non-profit organization that aids third world countries in improving their environments and qualities of living. I not only want to help in improving work conditions for people, but I specifically want to help improve the water quality in impoverished communities.

As you are reading this blog post, you are probably thinking, “Okay, great! But how can I apply this to my own life?” There are many opportunities for students to take trips like this at Purdue. Even though I did this through my church, you can Study Abroad via many other programs and schools. There are also opportunities for you to apply for Purdue Grants to get money to do a variety of international projects. I am a huge advocate of travelling, especially if you can learn something and earn course credit while in another country! So, during your time here, consider travelling abroad. I mean, you might as well when you are young, right?

Me and Macelyn, a 10 year old girl that lives in Baudin.

Passing through a heavily polluted neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

- Genevieve

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