Feature Stories

Two Students Spend Spring Break in Haiti

Roli Kushwaha and Mownika Yadlapalli, two NJIT biology majors, spent spring break in Haiti, helping a volunteer medical team care for ailing residents of Port-au-Prince.

Two NJIT students spent their spring break in Haiti, helping a medical team that set up a temporary health clinic in Port-au-Prince.

The students, Roli Kushwaha and Mownika Yadlapalli, assisted the doctors by filling prescriptions for thousands of Haiti who visited the clinic.  The team, sponsored by the Sai Organization, a religious group, established the clinic in a church in Port-au-Prince.

Mownika’s uncle was a doctor on the team, and she asked him if she and Roli could assist the team. Her uncle agreed, and the two joined the team as pharmaceutical assistants. 

Due to the earthquake, hospitals in Port-au-Prince were overwhelmed and many average Haitians could not find a doctor for routine medical checkups and care.  Those who visited the temporary clinic had various medical problems such as high blood pressure, chest pain, and respiratory problems.

Roli and Mownika, both juniors, spent the week filling prescriptions for those seen by the doctor. 

“We talked about doing something good for spring break,” said Roli, “so when this opportunity arose we eagerly volunteered to help the doctors. We are not party types to begin with and we wanted to contribute to solving a big medical problem in Haiti.”

Both Roli and Mownika belong to the Biological Society at NJIT, which does community service projects in the Newark area. Both have also done medical-related research with Physics Professor N.M. Ravindra.

Mownika said spending her spring break in Haiti changed her outlook on life. The Haitians she tended to, she said, had very little yet didn’t complain. That in turn made her appreciate the things she takes for granted and taught her not to complain about the small things that Americans are apt to complain about.

“The Haitians we helped didn’t have much,” said Mownika, “but they were upbeat and happy. In the U.S, if we faced their problems, I don’t think we’d have the patience and tolerance they have.” 

She said the medical team also visited an orphanage that was hit by the earthquake. The children living at the orphanage were also energetic and high spirited, Mownika said.

She and Roli are considering attending medical school after NJIT, she added, and having spent their spring break in Haiti taught them this about their future careers:

“If one day Roli and I work as doctors,” Mownika said, “we will try to help as many poor people as we can.  The most important qualities a doctor can have are empathy and compassion. Doctors should do their work for the love of helping people -- not for money.”

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)