Haitian student heads home to help
“My parents live in New York City, but many very close family members, including aunts and uncles and cousins, were killed.”
She lost 15 family members in the Haitian earthquake, but Samarth Joseph, a Haitian-born PhD student in the Department of Geography, plans to be back on the island by the end of the week to help her homeless family members and to distribute solar cookers to residents.
Her transportation will be funded by donations from UB faculty members, staff members and her fellow students. A Haitian-based aid organization will fly her into the Dominican Republic, from where she will drive to several sites in Haiti to help family members and distribute the cooking equipment from Solar Liberty Foundation of Williamsville, which will also help fund her efforts.
Joseph is scheduled to receive her doctorate in May. She has a lot on her plate right now.
“I’ve received texts from family members living in and near Port-au-Prince. Three haven’t been found yet,” she says. “One told me the smell is terrible, bodies are being burned and says he is dying because there is no water, no food. Although the aftershocks have subsided, he told me people are still shaking inside. It is an awful, awful situation, as we know.
“My parents live in New York City,” Joseph says, “but many very close family members, including aunts and uncles and cousins, were killed. I knew them, and even stayed with them last April when I was in Haiti doing economic development research for my dissertation,” she says.
Joseph’s fiancé, a Haitian electrical engineer, was injured in the quake and can’t get out of the country.
“He was supposed to visit me through May, but a minor paperwork issue held up his departure. Then the quake hit and the problem can’t be resolved now because of the destruction of records and offices. I have to help him, too,” says Joseph, who plans to initiate an intervention on his behalf through contacts in Washington, D.C.
When she goes to Haiti, Joseph will take with her solar cookers made available by the Solar Liberty Foundation, which provides renewable energy resources to people in less-developed nations.
Paige Mecca, MSW ’98, JD ’99, executive director of the foundation, says the relief effort in Haiti is the current focus of the foundation, which operates other solar electrification programs in that country, including one that is powering a field clinic operated by the international U.S.-based aid agency Partners In Health. She explains that solar cookers can be used to sterilize water, as well as cook food, and that the foundation is working with another organization to provide pre-packaged meals that can be prepared using the cooker.