lundi 9 mai 2011

PUC faculty teaches in Haiti

By Andrea Drac Staff Writer
Published: Sunday, May 8, 2011
Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti and the area hit hardest by the January 2010 earthquake, had been the center of higher education, drawing in students from all over the country. 87 percent of Haiti's universities were located within or close to Port-au-Prince. Out of 32 major universities, 28 were destroyed and the rest were severely damaged, according to Phyllis Bergiel's, visiting instructor in philosophy, PowerPoint presentation.

Bergiel visited Haiti in March as part of an education mission program. Other PUC faculty members who visited Haiti are Neeti Parashar, associate professor in physics; Lynn Zimmerman, associate professor in education; and Kathy Tobin, associate professor in history who introduced the program to PUC.
"We went on a volunteer basis," Bergiel explained as she went through various PowerPoint slides.
University of the Nouvelle GrandAnse is a community college with two programs in agriculture and management, with no permanent staff available. Bergiel spent two weeks in Jeremie, with eight days of student contact. She taught the students for an hour and a half each day. Most of the students were adults, who had homes, family and work to take care of.
"I was surprised they could study with all of the work they had to do at home," she said. "They knew the readings back and forth."
When Bergiel was not teaching, she was networking with non-governmental organizations to coordinate efforts in Haitian agriculture. Other tasks she mentioned were getting back reliable electricity and getting more sanitary facilities such as toilets, clean water, etc.
One of the things Bergiel was surprised about was Haiti's close distance.
"I pictured Haiti to be further away than it was," she said. "But it was a two hour plane ride from Florida."
Bergiel said the conditions were dangerous, but the experience was very rewarding for her.
Zimmerman said the conditions in Haiti were different to what she is used to. To take a shower she had to stand under a single pipe with water running down it.
Zimmerman went to Haiti in November of 2010, but did not go alone. She brought along a friend, Karen Oswald.
"It was nice to have someone with me, to talk to," she said.
Zimmerman taught an English class at UNOGA. The lack of technology was the hardest thing for her to get used to.
"I never used electronics or technology, except for one time when we were showing a video, because it was too difficult," she said.
Without technology, Zimmerman had to make copies of everything and rely on the blackboard to write things down. However, she introduced her class to the concept of group work, which she said they did well with.
"Working with the students was rewarding," Zimmerman said. "(We were) able to give them something they couldn't get otherwise."
Parashar visited Haiti in November 2010 and taught two physics courses at UNOGA during her one week visit: mechanics and a class in electricity, magnetism and optics. She said the students were shocked to see a physicist who was a woman.
Besides teaching, Parashar enjoyed doing yoga with her class of 120 students.
Despite the language barrier, Parashar and her students connected well, thanks to a translator. Both Zimmerman and Bergiel expressed their thanks to their translators as well during the presentation, as they helped them with anything they needed in Jeremie.
"Despite all apprehensions, I was very glad to be a part of people who appreciate it (our help)," Parashar said. "It is our duty to help those in need."

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