From New York to Port-au-Prince: Environmental Engineering Students Visit SOIL

Theo, the director of the SOIL office in Cap-Hatien, asked me to define the word “community.” This question caught me off guard… To me, a community is a group of people and their relationships with themselves, each other, and the land that they share. The history of the community is embedded within them… When working in international development, it is critical to understand that as an outsider, one will not have complete knowledge of what is best, and that we are not entitled to take control… This is because of the complexity that is involved with the establishment of a community. –Sara, ESF student

Community is the foundation upon which all SOIL projects are built. The SOIL family is a positive and supportive community within itself, and we work intimately within Haitian communities like Cite Soleil and Shada II. We are also part of a greater global community that embraces sustainable techniques and values humanitarian and public health efforts. The work that we do is largely enabled by our partnerships with other nonprofit organizations and support from our international friends (to whom we are eternally grateful)!

In March, the SOIL community expanded to include a group of five inspired environmental engineering students from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) at the State University of New York. These students are part of a group that works on international development projects, sometimes with guidance from Engineers Without Borders. The student group places a special emphasis on water resource management and waste management techniques, and has worked on engineering projects in Central and South America.

The ESF students traveled to Haiti so that they could meet with sustainable development groups and get a sense of how environmental engineering projects work in real world settings. Together, SOIL staff and the students toured some of our household and community toilets, the compost treatment sites and experimental gardens, and our offices in Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince. At SOIL, we are always excited to share our work and experiences with others! We believe that teaching and learning are two sides of the same coin, and the outside perspective provided by visitors helps us to continue to make improvements and to think creatively.

Thank you, ESF students– we look forward to collaborating in the future!

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