Haiti Research

SPH Haiti Trip: An Introduction

This past summer I was fortunate enough to travel to Layaye, Haiti, a village in the Central Plateau, with a research team from the University of Memphis.  Our team consisted of six students and two mentors.  The students were: Carrie Jo, Cyril, Emma, Mary, Stephanie, and me (Sarah).  Our mentors were Dr. Debra Bartelli, a professor in the School of Public Health, and Steve Schmitt, an engineer and practicum preceptor.  Both Dr. Bartelli and Steve have worked on a variety of projects in Layaye for years.  Our collective goals were to learn more about water quality, water filtration systems, perceptions of health, and health education in and around Layaye. In addition to our research team, we traveled and worked with a group of volunteers from the Haiti Outreach Ministry at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception (IC) in Memphis.  The IC volunteers consisted of two families—the Khouzams and the Galvins—who had projects ranging from medical clinics to basketball camps for kids.

It’s hard for me to explain our time in Haiti because no matter how well I describe the experiences, sounds, smells, and sights, words don’t seem to do them justice.  There is no way to capture the stifling heat and humidity that meets you when you get off the plane in Port-au-Prince—and that’s coming from a girl who was born and raised in the Mississippi River delta.  There are no words that can truly encompass the experience of peeling a ripe mango and taking your first bite, sticky hands wiping the juice from your chin as you grin.  You can’t help but smile; they taste too good.  Nothing can really describe the feeling you get from encountering so much generosity in a place where people have relatively little to give.  From the family that opened their home for all of us to stay in when our bus couldn’t make it to Layaye the first night to the man who brought us a basket full of avocados and mangos to take home with us when we departed, everyone showed us incredible kindness.  Haiti taught us all so much—and not just about our research topics.

Over course of this semester, we plan to feature entries from members of our group.  Our hope is that by hearing different perspectives about our experiences and research projects, you will have a better idea of what we did, the relationships we built, and how much we each learned.  Here are some pictures to get the story started…


Photo: Cyril Patra with the help of Dr. Dan Gentry

Excited for our 5.30 A.M. flight! Our research team at the airport, minus Steve (he was already there).  Top (left to right): Emma, Dr. Bartelli, Mary, Cyril.  Bottom (left to right): Carrie Jo, me (Sarah), and Stephanie.

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Photo: Sarah Boop

The landscape around Layaye: mountainous and tropical.  Houses are generally a bit spread out, as most families consist of subsistence farmers.  We hiked through the mountains from house to house to interview families and collect water samples. 

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Photo: Mary Powers

Some of our group collecting research at one of the houses near Layaye.

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Photo: Mary Powers

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner consisted of family-style meals provided by Father Camy (the priest at Notre Dame d’Altagrace) and his amazing cooks.  From left to right around the table: Father Camy, Dr. Bartelli, Steve, Emma, Mary, Carrie Jo, me, Ernso, Franz, and Fan Fan (our amazing translators). 

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Photo: Sarah Boop

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Photo: Mary Powers

Many people in and around Layaye get their water from springs like these. 

Author: Sarah Boop

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