January 22, 2018 8:45AM
The group, numbering between 20 and 25 students from the Kelce College of Business as well as other colleges and departments across campus, is no stranger to help individuals in struggling nations create income to improve their financial stability, noted their advisor, Suzanne Hurt.
For example, they had created Krimson Kultuur, a non-profit, student owned and operated, fair trade store, in 2013. It displays and sells the work of artisans in third-world and developing countries as well as local artists.
"Based upon success with other projects, they decided that if the local citizens were taught business skills, they could open their own businesses and create income for their families," Hurt said.
Three students traveled to Haiti in April 2017 with a partner organization, CARHA, a non-profit established to aide Haitian families, to do further research and finalize plans. But after a short time there and with conversations among the locals, they found out it wasn't businesses the people needed.
"They needed food," said Emily Vue, a senior in international business and international studies from Gravette, Arkansas. "It's what Haitians spend the bulk of their income on."
Despite having a viable tourist industry, Haiti is one of the world's poorest countries and the poorest in the Americas region; poverty, corruption, poor infrastructure, lack of health care and lack of education are considered the main sources. The economy receded further after the 2010 earthquake and the subsequent outbreak of Cholera.
Their heartstrings were pulled even further at the orphanage they visited, where children were sent after losing parents in the earthquake.
"We came back home and brainstormed some more," Vue said. "How could we give them food but also help them with an income?"
Their answer came in the Fall semester.
"We came up with hydroponics as an answer," Vue said. "Building one would mean the orphanages could grow their own fresh vegetables and then sell the extra."
With the help of Dodge Mattingly, a freshman in mathematics and physics from Bluff City, Kansas, who grew up on a farm and is adept at computer aided drafting, they came up with a design.
"We had to take into consideration what was best for their location, the lay of the land, and the type of produce they wanted to grow," Mattingly said.
They built a mock system in the backyard of a team member. Once they determined it would work, they had another hurdle.
"Buying the supplies here and shipping them there would have been challenging," Mattingly said. "We either would have had to pay to fly them in an airplane, or put them in a shipping container which would have taken several weeks and been very expensive."
So, they created a materials list, and emailed it to Haiti so partners there could gather what was necessary and have it ready for them. During Winter Break, five team members traveled to Haiti to build the systems at the orphanage.
"They arrived in Haiti, traveled 4 hours in the back of a truck to the village and started the work in the heat, with primitive equipment, and hundreds of mosquitoes," Hurt said.
Mattingly, the youngest at age 17, had never been on an airplane before; his home town of Bluff City has a population of just 65.
Surrounded by the children and every person helping out with any skill they had available, the system was built.
"We were just college students with an idea," Vue said. "But the people there, they believed in us. They inspired us."
Admittedly, Mattingly said, there were a few hiccups.
"Measurements didn't convert because their PVC is of a different diameter, and we ran out of bolts," he said.
But they were proud of the results: They finished both systems.
The team left the orphanage director with a complete manual. During Spring Break 2018, the team will return to Haiti to make sure the system is working properly and the seeds are turning into fresh food.
And, Mattingly added, the system is easy to replicate and modify, depending on population, location, and needs, so it could become a model used by others.
"In a day when our news is filled with negative stories, it is refreshing to know that goodness and compassion exists," said Hurt, who noted that the students were responsible for figuring out how to pay for the trip themselves, whether it was fundraising or contributing personally.
"It's hard to capture in one sentence the passion and sacrifice made by a group of college students from a small town in Kansas. In fact, I'm unsure if their accomplishments can be described in words," Hurt said. "As said by one student, it's knowing that one more person, one more child has a full stomach when they go to bed that makes the effort worthwhile."
To learn more about Enactus, visit http://www.pittstate.edu/business/students/student-organizations/enactus.dot