Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Second ecology conference

The second ecology conference was held Tuesday and Wednesday at a church in Riske de Cayahonde, about a 20 minute drive from UCI. Louiders was in charge of handing out materials and getting everyones names. 47 people attended, along with 3 babies and a bunch of kids. It was a mix of young and old, men and women. The occupations that they listed were: farmer, gardener, commerce, mechanic, health, and student. The pastor also attended. Two kids helped me pass the life cycle models around to show each person. I was able to cover more material than the first conference at UCI last week. While people asked excellent questions and gave examples of the topics in their lives, they didn’t go on with their stories as the crowd at UCI did. So I was able to add in the hydrologic cycle and the insect life cycles and go over the ecoli tests in more detail. The pastor helped decide on 3 people who would take the ecoli kits and test different sources of water the 1st afternoon, so that we could all look at results the next day. The old man who took a kit didn’t do a very good job with the culture plates, but one of the women did an excellent job and we could tell which water source had fecal material in it. I’ll write a post on this later.

Of course everyone thought that bats came from old mice that pop out wings. And I found out why people think that if a frog pees in your eye you’ll go blind. While working in the sugar cane fields people see frogs jump off of the cane, sometimes at eye level, and they see that the frog pees when it jumps. If it goes in your eye you’ll become blind. I asked if anyone ever witnessed this, and one old man said he did. An old lady clarified that it stings but you don’t really go blind. I’m still skeptical that it actually gets in anyone eyes.

This same old lady was very doubtful that hawks are good for anything. I went over the usual information about hawks keeping the rat population under control. It’s hard to convince people this is happening when the only way they would really know this is to get rid of the hawks and watch the rats take over. All the people see are the hawks eating their chickens. I’ll have to find the article that I read that quantified the numbers. We did discuss how there are fewer wild birds for the hawks to eat and that the chickens are easy to catch. I suggested that people might have to make an effort to protect their chickens.

Overall, I found that people are very aware that more trees would be better for Haiti. I hope that education about some of the basic ecological details will encourage the younger people to seek education in this and return to their communities to take charge of restoring Haiti. Foreign aid groups can bring in all the money they want to, but if communities don’t take charge the effects won’t last long. There are many rusted foreign NGO signs (along with non-functioning pumps) and other evidence that aid organizations were here. My goal is to educate people so they can take charge and solve their problems. Thanks to everyone who subsidized the education of the conference attendees! Even $2 was too much to ask people to pay (to cover their lunch). Your funding provided lunches for the people, educational materials, books, and

notepads. Thanks to Dr. Huggins for sponsoring the ecoli kits, LeeAnn for the puppets and life cycles, my dad for the plane ticket, those who donated binoculars, those who made financial contributions, and one large donor (Tot & KT). It’s making a difference in the lives of many people.

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