You can make a difference and bring awareness that others may not have seen or even thought of.
Maya Elysse, ’22, has a strong connection to Haiti, and because of this wants to learn why the country continues to struggle on many fronts and remains economically challenged despite all the aid the island nation has received over the decades.
“My mom and dad live there, so I’ve gone to visit often,” she said. “Haiti is so fun, such an experience, yet it’s often portrayed negatively. I’ve always been curious about the country and why it is so poor.”
This summer, through the Adrian Tinsley Program (ATP), the Bridgewater State University political science major set out to answer that question.
Maya worked with Dr. Seth Meyer to research Haiti, specifically to learn why the country hasn’t recovered from the 2010 earthquake despite billions of dollars in aid.
When the magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake happened on Jan. 12, 2010, Maya was only 10, but the impact of what she witnessed has stayed with her.
“I saw a lot of things,” she said. “Houses were destroyed, there were dead people on floors…it was a traumatic experience as a child, but it brought me closer to Haiti and I knew I wanted to do something to bring about change, to help. Being that young I didn’t know how to go about it.”
Through the ATP undergraduate research program, she found a way to help and began what she hopes will be a life-long journey of learning and involvement. (She will have her work cut out for her: The troubles of Haiti and its people have continued over the summer, with the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, another large earthquake striking in August, and the arrival in Texas of thousands of mainly Haitian refugees. Meanwhile, The New York Times has reported the country is ruled by warring gangs.)
Maya’s research involved looking at reports from some of the non-profit organizations that raised money after the 2010 earthquake, hoping to find out where the funds were distributed. It’s something that’s easier said than done.
“There were many roadblocks,” she said. “I discovered it’s really hard to find an organization and prove they’re doing what they said they would.”
The ATP program runs for 10 weeks, and it quickly became apparent to Maya that she was going to need more time.
“I felt frustrated as I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do,” she said. “But over the next two years I plan to continue this research and hope to publish a paper. This project has created more questions for me. On my own time I will continue researching this.”
Despite feeling discouraged about not yet reaching her goal, Maya said the Bridgewater State ATP experience was a confidence booster and provided her with the ability to connect with Haiti, a place she loves.
“Haiti is not often talked about,” she said. “And I want people to know there are many positives about Haiti.”
Overall, the ATP has helped her raise awareness about a topic that matters to her. She encourages other BSU students of color to bring their ideas and explore subjects that interest them.
“You can make a difference and bring awareness that others may not have seen or even thought of,” she said.
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