Alumna's Project Will Establish Sustainable Goat Management Training Center in Impoverished Area of Haiti

February 19, 2013

Nikki Wright '08, now a student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, and fellow veterinary student Lisa Gretebeck, were recently recognized with a “Student Inspiration Award” and $25,000 for their project, “Pou Sante: Amar Haiti.” The project proposed the creation and construction of a learning center in Haiti designed to provide education and training in sustainable goat management.

“For the most part in this country we tend to think of veterinarians as doctors for our pets, and often times we think of our pets as family members,” Wright shared in an email. “For the people of this part of Haiti, animals are far more than pets, they are a critical asset for the family. They may be the only chance that a family has to raise enough money to send their children to school and to put food on the table, even merely once a day.”

Wright first traveled to Haiti in September 2011 with the World Vets Organization. While there, the group consulted with families that owned animal farms and provided a number of animal clinics that, according to Wright, were very popular among the community. After that visit, according to an article on the UPenn Veterinary School website, Wright “became determined to find a way to contribute sustainable solutions to the problems of [Haiti's] people.”

“I feel that it is critical for us to foster opportunities for as many different kinds of people as possible so that we can come one step closer to meeting the needs of everyone, and so that kids can grow up seeing role models that 'look' like them in these positions and feel empowered to take on the challenge of pursuing that career,” Wright wrote.

As a Wellesley student, Wright worked at Wellesley Animal Hospital and on a research project at the Division of Comparative Medicine (DCM) at MIT. Wright said that her experiences as a student helped uncover her passion for using veterinary medicine to affect both human and animal health, and helped shape her personal and professional development.

“Wellesley helped me to understand what it means to be a woman who will,” she wrote. “A woman who will find ways to give back, who knows the power of single voice, who strives to be the change that she wants to see in the world.”

Wright and Gretebeck plan to use their award to build a hurricane-resistant house for 20 goats, and are hoping to raise additional funds for the project. You can follow their progress on Facebook.

Wright said she hopes help the Pou Sante: Amar Haiti program grow into a self-sustaining organization that continues to benefit all who are involved.