Campus News

July 6, 2010

Converting energy into help for Haiti

The Emory community came together to save almost $33,000 by reducing its energy consumption during the Haiti Relief Energy Conservation Challenge, a partnership between the Emory Global Health Institute and the Emory Sustainability Initiatives. Faculty, students, and staff across campus reduced their energy consumption this March by 4 percent from the previous March, with the goal of using the energy funds saved to sponsor Emory students working on global health and earthquake relief efforts in Haiti this summer.  In a sense, the Emory community was transferring human energy from its campus to the earthquake-ravaged country.

“The March energy reduction exceeded our expectations, and it was largely due to individual members of the Emory community making small changes to their daily behavior like turning off lights, unplugging chargers, and hibernating computers,” says Ciannat Howett, director of the Office of Sustainability Initiatives. ”I think a lot of people participated because the money saved went to such an important effort, and hopefully everyone will continue these energy-conserving habits.”

The Haiti Relief Conservation Challenge funded students working in two multidisciplinary teams selected by the Emory Global Health Institute through its Global Health Institute Fields Scholars Awards Program. The multidisciplinary aspect of these student teams is another reflection of how the Emory community has come together to assist the Haitian people in their recovery efforts.

One team, which includes students from Candler School of Theology, Emory Law, the Emory Physician Assistants Program, and Rollins School of Public Health, is working to expand access to safe water through a household water chlorination program in rural Haiti. The second team, comprised of students from Emory School of Medicine, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Laney Graduate School, and Rollins School of Public Health, is working on a project assessing mental health in rural Haiti.

The student teams left for Haiti in June and will return in August. Reports thus far indicate that they are having both challenging and meaningful experiences that they hope will be beneficial to rural Haitian communities.

“It is amazing to be working in Haiti after the earthquake, to witness how much people have suffered, and to experience how people continue to live their lives in spite of the suffering. We hope that our work here will result in research that will contribute to the existing knowledge about mental health in rural Haiti,” says Nayla Khoury, an MD/MPH candidate.

For some, the experience is also putting life in the United States, and the energy used to live it, into perspective.

“The Emory Sustainability Initiative is an idea that really goes hand in hand with the way I am learning to live in Haiti. The extremity of the situation we are living in has made us reflect on our energy use and consumption, and we are now more aware than ever of the limited resources of electricity and water,” says Anna Turbes, a PA/MPH candidate working on the safe water project.

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