A small group of people are gathered in a circle, overfilled with joy. They are singing in Haitian Creole, smiling, dancing, and clapping in a harmony. In the background there are several cows tied to trees and branches, mooing and grazing contently. One pesky heifer decides to lazily move towards the group. As she walks closer to the action, the branch to which she is tied snaps from the tree. Realizing her freedom, she quickly runs towards open space. One observer works his way over to catch the pesky heifer and return her to her rightful place. This situation, under normal conditions, may have wreaked havoc. However, with spirits high, it was quickly laughed off and singing and celebration continued. They were singing about how the pain from their head, back, body, and mind had been released because of the gift they had received from Heifer International. This “Passing on the Gift” ceremony in Quanaminthe is just one powerful experience that a group of 21 students and faculty from Purdue University were able to witness as part of their Animals and Food Security: Service Learning Trip to Haiti during the winter break.
Greetings, from Purdue University! Our names are Katelyn Jackson and Josey Holscher, and we are both senior students in Animal Sciences. We have been involved with Heifer International on Purdue’s campus for close to three years and since then we have seen the importance of Heifer’s goals. Heifer International’s mission “to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth” has inspired and created a passion within us to become more involved within our own community and Heifer’s work. This led us to look into service learning opportunities that are offered as study abroad programs at Purdue that partner with Heifer International.
While we were in Haiti we were able to work with Heifer projects as well as the Universite de Antenor Firmin (UNAF) in Cap-Haitien. The first day that we arrived in Quanaminthe, Haiti we were able to observe a Passing on the Gift ceremony. This emotional and empowering experience set a theme that inspired us for the rest of the trip. We wanted to take from Heifer’s cornerstones and continue to pass on the gift whether that was information, training, or even financial support. We also found, as in any community projects, partnerships are key to promoting sustainability and development of communities. For this reason, a lot of our trip was not only working with Heifer communities and other projects, but also making connections for future progress.
Specifically in Milot, Haiti we had the opportunity to participate in the service part of our trip and get our hands dirty. We split into two groups, one working with cocoa plants and soil composition. The second group worked on building fence to contain goats and prevent overgrazing. We were also able to present information about solar powered, portable electric fence that would continue to help them develop a rotational grazing plan to improve pasture sustainability, efficient growth in goats, and increase soil fertility. As a group, we are raising funds to continue these partnerships and projects in both Milot and Quanaminthe. Adds Northern Haiti Field Coordinator Ewaldy Estil, “The students have learned that Haiti is not really how the international press is describing it…Haitians are strong and they deserve a better life. They have learned Haiti has too many natural resources to be a poor country. They have learned to be ambassadors of this country.”
After we returned to the United States and presented what we learned in Haiti to our Heifer International Purdue Chapter, we were excited to have Todd Montgomery join us on campus to further plan the future and growth of our team. Just as our trip provided us with insight on how Heifer creates and develops projects with communities, Todd Montgomery’s class provided us with personal experience on developing our club as a community. Our Purdue Heifer chapter was able to define our foundation and cornerstones that will support not only our current chapter, but generations of our group yet to come.
All of these experiences added to our knowledge gained with time spent on Heifer Ranch. I (this is Josey) worked as an education volunteer on Heifer Ranch during the summer of 2010. Time spent working with youth and teaching about the heifer model, global issues, and sustainability inspired me to become more involved in my community and allowed me to see the importance of extension and education in agriculture. I (this is Katelyn) spent a weekend participating in the Heifer U program on the ranch. My time in Arkansas helped me to develop a deeper understanding of how Heifer’s model works and how I can incorporate that into a university setting.
Overall, our partnership and work with Heifer International has allowed us to see the importance of developing communities and the impact one gift can make. As we look to graduate and advance into our future endeavors, we know that Heifer’s mission will stay close in our minds. We hope to continue to develop a relationship with Heifer International and its life-changing work.
Written by Katelyn Jackson and Josey Holscher
You can read more about our trip to Haiti via our blog at http://purduehaiti11.blogspot.com/
We also made a video about the trip, watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_zrlfH7EIk