Feb. 3, 2010
UI course offers students opportunities to learn from Haitian earthquake
As people around the world offer donations and physical support for disaster relief in Haiti, one University of Iowa faculty member and a group of students are spending the semester preparing to visit and help the country.
Maureen McCue, M.D., an adjunct assistant professor in International Programs at the UI and coordinator for Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, originally started coordinating a UI class on Haiti in July 2009. However, after the devastating earthquake struck the country on Jan. 12, she swiftly switched gears and recreated a class titled "Haiti, The Evolution of a Disaster."
McCue's original plan was to take students from Iowa to Haiti to increase their awareness of the problems faced by Haitians as well as some of their uniquely creative responses. The class was preparing to travel over spring break when the earthquake hit. McCue, also an affiliated faculty member with the UI Global Health Studies Program (GHSP), scrapped her original idea to create this new two-hour credit course. The course is part of the GHSP in International Programs and meets Mondays this spring semester from 6 to 8 p.m. in Room 31 Schaeffer Hall on the UI campus.
Ten students are enrolled in the course, which is covering Haiti's history, the disaster's impact on the health of Haitians and future of their country, responses by various agencies, and coordination and communication between outside agencies and those already in the country. McCue also hopes students will learn how they can best support the nation's rebuilding after the country is out of the spotlight.
"I really want students to do something that has some lasting value in developing their professional careers," said McCue, who last visited the country in 2002.
She said her students, some of whom are studying international studies while others are studying global and public health, will all design a small project to help Haiti in an effective, sustainable way.
If the situation in Haiti allows it, McCue hopes to visit the country for 10 days after finals in May, perhaps with members of the class. She said she would work with Haitian-led organizations to determine local priorities and identify projects for the group. Such projects might include removal of rubble, planting trees, establishing community gardens, constructing latrines and schools, or providing drinking water. Ahead of the trip, students in her class would use personal connections at home and abroad to identify other ways to contribute to relief efforts.
While she works out details of the trip, McCue said she is keeping tabs on the situation in Haiti.
"We're regularly in communication with people on the ground, and we'll investigate what needs to be done," McCue said.
For more information on the UI Global Health Studies Program, visit http://international.uiowa.edu/centers/global-health/.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500