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Foothill Middle College students grow plants for Haiti

Written by Alex Dersh

The Society of Providence United for the Economic Development of Petion-Ville (SOPUDEP) is a Haitian organization that works to provide food, education, housing, healthcare and enterprise to the poor citizens of the Caribbean nation. A club was founded at Foothill Middle College to raise money and coordinate with SOPUDEP to achieve the same humanitarian goals.

Two members of the club, Martha Cabot and Nina Leiman, are juniors at Foothill Middle College. They have been involved with the club since its creation this school year, volunteering their time to work on numerous projects to raise money for SOPUDEP, such as planting a produce-filled garden.

Leiman joined upon learning about the club once the club’s founders, Natalia Whitney and Marie DeShetler, advertised among Middle College students. Leiman saw an opportunity to help out those in need while better connecting to her Middle College community. “It’s really cool to be able to work on something in my community,” she said. “It really feels like we’re doing something good for the world.”

After hearing about the club’s existence, Cabot decided to join, relating with the founders’ desires to improve the lives of impoverished Haitians. “I felt the passion that [Whitman and DeShetler] had [and] I could see that they were so happy to make a difference,” she said. “For me I just want everybody to have the same rights and health care and education.”

Leiman, too, understood how necessary it was for her to take the opportunity to help those less fortunate. Life in Silicon Valley especially gave her perspective on what she could do to help others. “I’m obviously so privileged to live in Palo Alto,” she said. “To be able to do something to help another community is cool.”

Cabot and Leiman hope that others are inspired to make a positive impact in the world from the work they are doing. “I think they see our motivation and how easily we can go about helping people who are in need,” Cabot said.

The club’s “Solidarity Farm,” a community farm located in East Palo Alto, grows produce to be sold in order to raise money for medical supplies. They sell the produce through Community Supported Agriculture packages.

The club also goes green through its ongoing recycling project, in which they collect aluminum, plastic and glass bottles in exchange for cash that goes to the charity. As Cabot explained, helping out is easy for any and all. “You don’t have to be at every single fundraiser or every single activity to pitch in,” she said. “We represent how easy it is to help and be part of a community that is in need.”

Cabot and Leiman both understand the critical needs of many in Haiti, as the country’s corrupt government makes providing for its citizens difficult. Underscoring her compassion for those in need, Cabot saw no excuse for not contributing to SOPUDEP. “If I can make an impact, and if I can do good, then what is stopping me?” she asked.

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