Bucci Seeks Collaboration while Paying it Forward in Haiti
Terri Bucci, director of the Haiti Empowerment Project and Food Innovation Center member, has recently returned from Haiti for her fourth time since last January. The Haiti Empowerment Project is a continuing education effort between The Ohio State University and universities in Haiti. It provides a practical application for students and faculty from both countries to do work in their discipline within the Haitian community.
Bucci first became involved in Haiti in 2007. A professor in mathematics education at the time, Bucci flew to the island by herself to learn more about Haitian people and their educational systems. She began to talk to local universities and developed a relationship with many university partners.
When a large earthquake devastated Haiti last January, Bucci was one of the first on the scene to help. She met with leaders of the community to discuss rebuilding educational opportunities for children. She helped set up three schools in tent communities for the residents and instructed teachers on curriculum implementation.
While Bucci's main focus was on teacher education, it quickly shifted to interdisciplinary university education. "We no longer live in the closed world of our fields. We're all connected. We can be most powerful if we work with others from all disciplines," Bucci clarified. She wanted the work done in Haiti to help both OSU and Haitian students. She explained that the projects were community driven and expertise was needed from many areas in order to be successful in implementing the projects.
Many projects have begun to start up in Haiti as a result of the interdisciplinary work. Fields such as business, engineering, education and the arts are all being explored.
Solar energy is a new project that started because of the Haiti Empowerment Project. In March, Ohio State engineering students traveled to Haiti to speak about solar energy at schools and worked to install lights, solar panels and laptop charging stations. Students from Haitian universities worked with them to complete these installations. An additional program, One Laptop per Child, works to secure internet access to children in the schools. To fit with the Haitian environment, the laptops are solar charged and modified so students can see the screen in the sun.
"It is important that our work is multifaceted. We must teach the members of the community so that they can learn to do these things themselves in the future. Knowledge creation and dissemination is our main goal," Bucci explained.
Interest in multi-faceted projects is one reason Bucci became involved with the Food Innovation Center. Bucci easily drew a connection between food scarcity, inequality, and education in Haiti. She explained that some schools have lunch programs run by non-governmental organizations or churches. However, in other schools there are no programs whatsoever.
"It is really hard to teach children who haven't had a meal in a day or two. It makes it very difficult for them to learn," she stated.
Bucci explained that food is a big issue in Haitian communities because rights to land ownership are often a problem. She is looking to find a way to teach container-growing in small places that are not ground-based. However, Bucci admitted that food and agriculture are not her specialization and would love to find collaboration from other disciplines to help solve this problem.
Next spring break, Bucci is taking a cluster of students from business, engineering, and education back to Haiti. She hopes that she can also take clusters of students or faculty that have expertise in nutrition, agriculture, and health sciences. She believes it is a great opportunity to experience one's field in a "raw" manner, because they must start from scratch and use critical thinking to build up their project and make it effective.
Bucci hopes that additional Food Innovation Center members will be interested in the issues in Haiti and come together to address some of the country's greatest challenges.
"The Food Innovation Center is a great resource for interdisciplinary work. The magnitude of impact you can get from having so many voices and views on a central theme is astounding. It is a really progressive idea and there is a lot of power behind it. Because our work in Haiti is now interdisciplinary focused, the amount we can accomplish has become much greater."
Article written by Kayla Stucke
Posted Aug. 9, 2012