Campus-wide effort to raise necessary funds

Ellen Kirtner

Undergraduate Studies Dean Gary Padak said the situation is like “having a garden with a goal of feeding 2,000 people.”

Padak and pan-African studies professor George Garrison are heading an effort with Kent State United for Disaster Relief to purchase a tractor to help the school make full use of the land available to it. The tractor will cost about $50,000, and will last for at least 15 to 20 years, Garrison said.

Donations for the Haiti Tractor Project can be made directly to Padak at the Exploratory Advising Center or Garrison in Oscar Ritchie Hall, or larger donations can go directly to Eugene Finn, vice president for institutional advancement, Padak said.

While the earthquake did not directly impact the school, its aftereffects led to the school population growing to 2,000 without any increase in resources as refugees traveled to the less-damaged areas.

“After the earthquake hit in Port-au-Prince, nearly 400 students with their parents migrated out of that area to a town called Ouanaminthe in the Northeast,” Garrison said. “That increased that school from about 1,700 students to over 2,000 students.”

Padak said he hopes the crops can be used for both feeding the students as well as trade for other necessary supplies. The school, founded 15 years ago, provides an education for students from pre-kindergarten to 13th grade.

The economic hardships many families in Haiti face means children may get only one meal per day. The school is trying to provide breakfast and lunch to the students, Padak said.

“It’s very difficult for students to go to school if they’re hungry. It’s difficult to pay attention in class, so this is a major problem they’ve been trying to solve,” Garrison said.

Garrison said he hopes to see 100 percent student participation, in whatever way they can help. Student organizations looking for a service project can collaborate in the fundraising efforts by contacting Padak at [email protected].

With pledge and student donations so far, Padak said they are about one-fourth of the way to their goal of $50,000. Padak said they have chosen the tractor, and ideally hope to have gathered the resources to provide it to Institution Univers by the end of the Spring semester.

The tractor project is only a portion of the work Padak and Garrison have planned to bridge the Ouanaminthe community and the Kent community.

Two students from that school are attending Kent State this semester through scholarship assistance provided by Kent State, and Padak hopes to find more sources of scholarships to allow more Haitian students to study here.

These students are graduates of Institution Univers, and will return to the area to better help their community after receiving their education here, Garrison said.

Padak also hopes to send Kent State students to Haiti when the situation and the timing is appropriate to allow them the opportunity to gain experiential learning and make a difference in a country in need.

Overall, Padak said he hopes students will continue to pay attention to the news and be cognizant of the continuing developments in the country.

Contact Ellen Kirtner at [email protected].