Ben Schweiger, Delaware Valley University - Haiti Reef Restoration
I studied Conservation and Wildlife Management at Delaware Valley University, and during an experience I had in South Africa, I felt God calling me to come to Haiti to bring marine conservation education to the fishermen in Haiti. Upon graduating from college, I spent ten weeks in Haiti building relationships with many of the fishermen in the local area and educating them on conservation while also working with them to develop their management strategies.
During the time I was in Haiti, I employed 2 Haitians (who were recent graduates of Université d'État d'Haïti, Campus Henri Christophe de Limonade with degrees in Environmental Science) who spent the summer working with me and building relationships with the fishermen. Through this, we were able to hold some educational and discussion-based seminars open to all fishermen of the area and introduced the idea of conserving fish populations and reefs for the future of their industry. We also created a coral nursery within our “focused area of protection”—with the purpose of helping create some resilience within some of the reefs—and helped a local tourism business, Haitian Creole Tour, add an educational reef tour to their list of tours offered.
I know education in the field of marine conservation is very foreign to most Haitians, but it is an essential field because so many of them depend on the valuable resources they receive from the ocean and its ecosystems. Continuing to be able to provide education and assistance to people who rely on these ecosystems—especially the fishermen—is something that I hope to be able to continue doing, so that Haitians can take this knowledge and be empowered to take action against their fading reefs and fish populations and make a change for their benefit.