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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Alfred: Vet tech students taking skill sets to Haiti following hurricane


Michelle Marinich, a graduate of veterinary technology,
 tends to an animal during a past college trip to Haiti
When Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti in early October, the effects on Haitians’ livestock were devastating, causing a major blow to an important aspect of the residents’ livelihood. Looking to help with this problem are two groups of Alfred State veterinary technology students who will be traveling to the country in January and May.According to Associate Professor of Agriculture and Veterinary Technology Doug Pierson, the students will travel to Les Cayes, where they will put their skills to use caring for residents’ animals by participating in mobile clinics and coordinating with the local veterinary agent.
“We also have a truck that we load up with vet supplies and take out to farmers,” said Pierson, who, along with his wife, Debbie, will be accompanying the students to Haiti. “The farmers just bring their animals to us and we take care of whatever need they have.”
Speaking to the importance of livestock to residents in Haiti, he said, “A Haitian family wants to have livestock because if they have a need that comes up – somebody gets sick and they need to pay a hospital bill, or they have to pay school tuition – they want to have an animal to sell so they can generate the money they need. Animals are almost like a banking system. The typical poor Haitian family survives on bartering and on the livestock they are able to maintain.”
The vet tech students leaving Alfred for Haiti on Jan. 12 and returning Jan. 20 will be Dominique Battaglia, of Baldwinsville; Santina Blair, of Utica; Lynnsie Bennett, of Victor; and Morgan Childs, of Scio. Those departing for Haiti May 14 and returning May 22 will be Megan DiMartino, of Cuba; Rachael Schweiger, of Barton; Caitlyn Roof, of Palmyra; and Alison Sell, of Hanover, PA.
The Piersons’ connection to Haiti goes back more than 15 years, as they had lived near Les Cayes from 2000 to 2003 because of Doug’s involvement with the Christian Veterinarian Mission. Since 2010, the Piersons have been taking groups of Alfred State students over to Haiti twice a year. Initially, the trips centered on reconstruction and involved building trades students, but in recent years, the focus has shifted more toward caring for livestock.
“In addition to having compassion and a heart to want to help, it’s really nice if you bring a skill set so you can be more than a gofer,” Doug said, noting how impressed he has been with Alfred State students who have traveled to Haiti in the past. “We’re kind of uniquely positioned as a college of technology to bring in students with really high skill sets.”
Debbie said she hoped that when Hurricane Matthew hit, all 104 students who she and Doug have taken to Haiti over the years stopped and reflected on the past trips.
“It brings about an awareness of a developing country that maybe they haven’t had in the past,” she said. “I love going back to Haiti. Every time we go, I’m excited about going, but it’s even more exciting being able to see it through the eyes of the students who have never been there. I don’t think we’ve ever taken students who haven’t wanted to stay longer than a week because there’s so much more to do and they want to help.”