BSCH Doctoral Student Volunteers in Haiti

Published: June 13th, 2014

Category: Student News

Haiti GroupDoctoral student Jessie King spent part of her summer break volunteering alongside fifteen other UF students in Haiti. The group traveled to Jacmel, Haiti for ten days to assist local community members in building a school.

The mix of undergraduate, graduate students, and recent alumni volunteered with an organization called Social Tap, Inc, and its pilot project, The Haiti Initiative.

Social Tap, Inc’s mission is centered on grassroots partnerships that address the needs of at-risk, vulnerable and exploited populations. The organization uses an Asset-Based Community Development approach, utilizing the skills and talents of local community members to further initiatives. This allows for empowerment, capacity building and sustainability.

Haiti SchoolThe project within Social Tap, Inc, The Haiti Initiative, has eight core areas of focus in order to address the root causes of extreme poverty: agriculture & food security, community capacity building & asset mapping, environment, health and hygiene, human rights, pinchinat camp (assisting persons displaced from earthquake), school development, and youth development & education. The Haiti Initiative has been working on school development since 2010 through a collaborative cholera awareness campaign which identified schools who offered so much to the community yet lacked insufficient access to clean water, access to prevention methods of cholera and waterborne diseases with hand washing stations. Meeting this initial need has allowed for growth of the project which now also focuses on building schools within the area.

The UF team’s primary efforts this trip involved building the foundation to a school, which included digging trenches and installing rebar. The team was able to camp at the school site in a rural Haitian village. Actually staying in the village, the students were able to interact with the locals and participate in class lessons.

Schools as well as basic sanitation are major needs in the area, according to these statistics:

  • 55 % of school-aged children are not in school (prior to the earthquake)
  • 16.6% of females ages 15 – 19 & 20% of females age 20 -24 are illiterate in the South East Department
  • More than four out of ten children (1.7 million) have no access to proper sanitation
  • One in 5 children (861,000) have no access to clean water (prior to the earthquake)
  • Only 55% of rural residents have access to safe water (prior to earthquake)

Jessie had this to say about her experience:

“I love traveling and getting to interact with people in their own environments. Seeing firsthand the disparities as well as just the extreme need that exists and the actual conditions people are facing allows for not only individual growth but a greater understanding of the problems people may face. I like to think it carries over even into my research and teaching here in Gainesville.”