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Lab kits in Haiti: A push towards better Haitian education

More frequent travelers and aid workers can attest to the fact that no matter how many trips one makes to Haiti, it is impossible to know what to expect or be ready for the inspiriting experiences offered by the island nation. Having made one trip in the summer of 2010, still in the wake of the disastrous earthquake that struck just months earlier, I made another this June accompanied by my father, Rafi Malik, sister, Noreen Malik, and experienced Haitian aid worker and friend, Kyle Martin, anticipating and hoping for another successful trip. Conducting interviews and having conversations with the staff at the Cloud Forest Medical Clinic in Seguin, Haiti during my first trip elucidated the fact that the foundation for the success of the developing nation was not in continuous support from NGO’s or the United Nations but had to come internally. Therefore, Haiti’s success had to come from the education of Haitians. The doctors and other staff I interviewed made it clear that education was the stepping stone and it should be a primary focus of philanthropic organizations looking to make a difference. Humanity First’s efforts, led by Dr. Clayton Bell, to build a state of the art primary school in the mountainous countryside of Haiti demonstrates this motivation. In a continuing effort to make a difference in the realm of education, SharjeelChaudry and I developed a project to design, construct, and deliver lab kits with various experiments to the Humanity First School in order to introduce science, a relatively unfamiliar subject, to the Haitian students.

We received grants from Humanity First, Cornell University, and the University of Maryland (the respective schools of Sharjeel and I) to fund the proposed project.* With the drive of student members of the Pre-Professional Association Towards Careers in Health (PATCH) at Cornell, we were able to organize and develop experiments to include in the kits. After writing detailed procedures for three experiments and translating them to both Haitian Creole and French, we were able to order supplies and materials and were even able to feature the project at the Haitian Students Association’s gala at Cornell, where students were able to assist in the actual assembly of the lab kits. The kits included three experiments covering basic topics in health, physics, and plant sciences. The first of the experiments was of pulse and exercise, demonstrating how different activities including jump roping and sitting and laying down affect your heart rate. The second was of the dynamics of ball bounciness, examining how air pressure, ball material, and different surfaces affect how a ball bounces. The third experiment was a tomato seeds experiment, looking at how the quality of dirt, the presence of shade and light, and the amount of water affect the growth of seeds. Accompanied by my father, sister, and Kyle, we were able to make the journey to Seguin in June to deliver the kits to both the Humanity First School and the Institution Chretienne Emmanuel primary school, also in Seguin. School faculty and students alike were enthusiastic and excited by what the kits had to offer.

Our continuing hope is that our small efforts may foster a level of understanding and appeal of science to the Haitian students. Perhaps this will influence and inspire students to further pursue education in science, which can serve as an invaluable tool for themselves and their society.The comprehensive endeavor, however, of raising the standards of education in Haiti is one that requires increasingly greater effort and time, but is an objective that is not unattainable. Sharjeel, PATCH, and I will continue our efforts of developing science kits to send to other areas with similarly limited resources.

Adeel Malik

*Cornell Grants: Human Ecology Alumni Association Award
Cornell University Student Development Diversity Initiatives Grant
CU Tonight- Office of the Vice President Funding
University of Maryland Grant: CNS 1033192 UMD PI: SamirKhuller



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Humanity First is registered in 43 countries across 6 continents, and has been working on human development projects and responding to disasters since 1994. These have included the earthquakes in Turkey, Pakistan, Japan and Iran, floods in Africa and Latin America, hurricanes (Katrina and Rita) , tornado's (Kansas) and wild fires (California) in the USA, Indonesia and Bangladesh, and conflicts in Eastern Europe.

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