The student-led organization, University of California Haiti Initiative (UCHI), sent five student leaders this month to Haiti for a peer interaction with Haitian public university students.
The University of California students who came from UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA and UC Santa Cruz, traveled in early September to meet with local students from Universite d’Etat d’Haitie (UEH) to further converse with Haitian locals after an earlier trip in August of this year.
“My experience went very well, it was unlike any other experience I ever had. It was very eye opening and humbling,” said Jessica Jaswal, a senior psychology major and student leader at UC Davis. “It was very inspiring, nothing compares to learning about the Haitian political and social culture first hand.”
The week-long trip, from Sept. 9 to 18, gave the UCHI members and their Haitian peers an opportunity to discuss future plans for Haiti and learn about the culture and history of the country.
During the trip, campus leaders interacted with their Haitian peers and discussed problems and solutions for the higher education system, among other issues. The recent trip to Haiti has been one of the three trips sponsored by UCHI, said Doreen Bloch, marketing manager of UCHI.
“I expected to go in with an open mind. I wanted to get the Haitian experience in order to figure out how we can help them in the most effective way,” Jaswal said.
The organization involves all 10 of the University of California campuses, and includes a range of students, faculty, alumni and administrators as participants that formed a partnership with the public university in Haiti, Bloch said.
The organization UCHI was formed in 2010 after the earthquake that devastated Haiti, with the goal of finding real solutions to the problems that left Haitians impoverished.
“If we can help the next generation of leaders from UEH grow the medical profession, build agricultural industries and the economy, then they can play a significant part in developing Haiti,” said Anna Alexandroni, UCHI Director of Operations, in a press release.
The organization has two basic focuses for Haiti, they hope to redevelop the higher education system and create sustainable development, such as engineering, health care and social justice, Jaswal said.
Bloch, a UC Berkeley graduate, said that UCHI wants to show that there are many ways to help the country of Haiti.
“[UCHI] not only gives monetary benefits to the public universities of Haiti, but shows that there are other means of help, such as architecture, business, and other non-tangible resources that can be given from the UC system,” Bloch said.
ALICIA KINDRED can be reached at email@example.com.