Ohio State Mansfield Professor Terri Bucci paired a national award for technology and teacher education with the vision of a member at a local church who wanted to build an orphanage and school in Haiti; the result quickly grew into the Haiti Empowerment Project.
Ten years later, the project includes a study abroad experience for Ohio State students of all majors, as well as partnerships with universities in Haiti. The project recently was awarded the university’s Distinguished International Engagement Award and was nominated for the national C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award.
The project involves bringing together the intellectual and material resources of Ohio State and other U.S. faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students to collaborate with the Haitian community to aid its growth.
“We talked a lot about early childhood education and learning theory, but then we got to a point where I needed to know more about Haitian education to be able to be of any further assistance,” Bucci said. “So I just got on a plane and flew down to Haiti.”
Bucci learned much about Haitian government and education from her initial visit, but what she didn’t expect was the response when she returned.
“I got this barrage of emails and phone calls because people found out that someone from Ohio State Education went to Haiti to work with schools,” Bucci said. “It snowballed and we started working with universities in Port-au-Prince conducting teaching seminars.”
It continued to grow from there. Bucci began to find graduate students or faculty who specialized in the fields the Haitians were interested in. However, the project isn’t about telling the Haitians what to do. It’s about helping them grow.
“The Haiti Empowerment Project doesn’t go in and tell them what to do,” Bucci said. “We work with people, ask a lot questions, and then we figure out how we can use our collective resources to solve problems.”
Because the native languages are Haitian Creole and French, translators are needed so that the project members can work with rural as well as urban Haitian communities and coordinate future plans.
“We’ve been working with our translators for a very long time. They could basically teach Education courses,” Bucci said. “Your work is only as good as the translations.”
Bucci has been going to Haiti a few times a year since 2005. The project became a study abroad program a few years ago, which opened it up to student involvement. While most universities avoid planning travel to a country with a travel warning, Ohio State is unique in that it allows students to go to Haiti.
“The Office of International Affairs of Ohio State is great about that. They want their students to live and experience the real world,” Bucci said. “I think Ohio State is really unique in doing that kind of work.”
Of the award, Bucci said she is just happy the project is getting more notice.
“It’s nice to get the recognition for the work because it raises the understanding of the issues in Haiti,” Bucci said. “I think that’s what it means most to me is recognition for the country so that we can be better international partners with them.”
#313353 Haiti Empowerment Project