Cara with a baby whose mother participated in her Moringa Tree research project.  Photo was taken by Kaitrin Rodgers.

Cara with a baby whose mother participated in her Moringa Tree research project. Photo was taken by Kaitrin Rodgers.

This guest post is written by Cara McDonald, a 2015 Stand Up Award recipient. You can see more of her story at

My motivation to help Haiti is driven by an undeniable passion to see the country and the Haitian people reach their full potential. I envision a day where children are lifted out of poverty, mothers and fathers are able to care for their families and the country is not known for its poverty, but for its beauty and prosperity. This passion did not come from reading about poverty or seeing it on TV, but from witnessing it, feeling it and taking action against it.

I was blessed to find my passion for helping Haiti early in life when I witnessed first hand what poverty means. In 2010, I volunteered in mobile medical clinics after the earthquake. One day, an eighteen-year-old pregnant mother of two came into our clinic to give birth. The room she was to give birth in had a dirt floor and one small, rickety bed which was held up on cinder blocks and rocks. There were cobwebs and spiders in the corners of the small room. The door was fashioned out of a few wooden boards stuck together which leaned against the wall.

The room that the 18 year old who is in this post gave birth.

The room that the 18 year old who is in this post gave birth. Photo: Cara McDonald

During Kedna’s labor I was translating the commands of the nurses, asking Kedna the last time she ate, how long she had been in labor, and telling her to “push.” As her pain grew intense, Kedna screamed, “I can’t do this! God help me.” I believe these screams were not only about the pain, but a real cry for help in a hopeless world. I thought to myself and prayed to God with frustration and helplessness, “She has two children that she can hardly take care of now and yet she has another mouth to feed? Why her, living in the poorest country of the western hemisphere at just eighteen years old? Why is nothing being done?” The answers to these questions are entangled in many issues of poverty, but the answer to what can be done about it was simple for me: I can do something.

I have since devoted my experiences and education at Penn State to pursuing my passion of contributing to international development in a sustainable, effective way. Finding my passion for helping others has helped me to stay focused when I face life’s obstacles. When I feel like my schoolwork is overwhelming, I think about the orphaned children that I’m studying for. When I struggle to pay my bills, I think of my friends in Haiti who struggle, daily, to eat one meal. Having a passion has kept me grounded and has kept my mind focused on what is important in life.

Baby who was born in this blog post.

Baby who was born in this blog post.

Helping people in need is truly rewarding. Every day we have the chance to do this even in our own community where people face adversity. The person you sit next to in class, may struggle with depression or have thoughts of suicide. Your next-door neighbor may struggle with addiction. For me it’s Haiti, but for you it might be the State College community. If I were to give advice to my fellow Penn State community, it would be find your passion and go for it. Standing up for what you believe in does not have to be a heroic act; it is an every day pursuit of passion. It is loving others.

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