Student Stories: growing pains -- student researches moringa tree in Haiti

A good day for most people does not begin with waking up in a cinder block room in an orphanage in Haiti, but as senior Cara McDonald can tell you, rewarding experiences do not discriminate. They pop up in unexpected places, are often the product of hard work and allow for continued benefits for a long time -- much like the moringa tree.

The tree was the basis of McDonald's work from May through August 2013 -- her research brought her to Williamson, Haiti, where she stayed in an orphanage while investigating the local people's acceptance of the plant and their willingness to incorporate it into their diets.

While conducting research, McDonald interned for an organization called Poverty Resolutions, a nonprofit group that increases awareness of global poverty, provides sustainable solutions and is active at Penn State.

Studying the social dimensions of the moringa tree in Haiti also brought McDonald to the remote island of La Gonave and the port of La Artibonite, where she met with other organizations to learn about how they were promoting the tree.

Every part of the moringa tree can be consumed, but the leaves are the most nutritious. McDonald often taught seminars on how to dry the leaves and make them into a powder that can be cooked into rice or made into tea.

"If I taught kids how to make tea, they would return the next day with tea or rice they had made with moringa in it," she said. "They were excited to learn, so that was awesome."

A community, environment and development major in the College of Agricultural Sciences, her course work includes international issues and the study of world hunger -- a phenomenon that McDonald encountered firsthand in her travels.

"The perspective I gained from my international experience helped me apply concepts from my courses, and I also saw how relevant our class material is," she said.

Learn about the community, environment and development major.

 

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Last Updated October 08, 2014