Rochester Technology

RIT grad students lend a sustainable hand in Haiti

Sitting anywhere on a college campus, you’ll hear a lot of students discussing what they can do to benefit themselves. “Which classes should I take next quarter?” or “What club or activity would look best on my resume?” Very rarely, it seems, do you hear someone say “What can I do to help others?”

In August, four RIT students asked that very question. As part of a class in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, Sarah Brownell and Brian Thorn led a 10-day trip to Haiti. Along for the ride were graduate students Shwe Sin Win, Kim Hunt, Ricki Pavia and Darinee Narimarnkarm. In Haiti, the students worked on a project for Meds & Food for Kids.

Meds & Food for Kids was created in 2003 by Dr. Patricia Wolff:

Meds and Food for Kids’ approach is to use local labor and local resources to manufacture Medika Mamba, a treatment for malnutrition, which in turn develops the local economy.

The students worked with MFK to help find a better way to deal with a contaminant occasionally found in the peanuts used. By removing the contaminant, MFK would be able to use more of the locally grown peanuts, in turn helping Haiti’s economy and lowering the rate of malnutrition.

The students were able to see what it’s like to have the experience of developing and manufacturing a product in a developing country,” said Sarah Brownell, Engineering and Developing World teacher. “I think they wanted to see what constraints there are and how they can design better with them in mind.”

In a day and age where it seems that the typical human tends to think more about what can help than, as opposed to what can help others, it’s nice to see that there are still some college kids out there that want to truly make a difference.

On their trip, these four graduate students not only did what they could to help at that moment, they also planned for the future. The students met with organizations like Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods and MFK to discuss projects for future RIT graduate students to complete.

For more information on what you can do to help Haiti, go to