From Rooftop to Rooftop: Designing Social Change in Haiti

A DelVal environmental design major’s senior capstone project took him to Haiti, where he installed a system to grow food on a residential rooftop in July 2012.

Harris Trobman, a 2012 DelVal graduate from Philadelphia, is putting his skills in design to use to help provide fruits and vegetables for people who are struggling to survive. He presented his project, “The Social Harvest” at the college last spring.

He also presented his work with Michael Fleischacker, co-chair of DelVal’s Natural Resources and Biosystems Management department, at The Greater Philadelphia Symposium on Haitian Service in Devon, Pa. The symposium brought together groups and individuals working on projects in Haiti to share experiences, ideas and challenges and form connections.

The day included presentations by 11 groups doing work in Haiti, including the DelVal presentation, followed by a roundtable discussion. Members of the Haitian community who have been touched by humanitarian also shared their stories at the event.

Harris has pulled together a really diverse and wonderful team to work on this project that we're all very excited about, said Fleischacker, Trobman’s main adviser and a lead landscape architect for the project.

Trobman traveled to Haiti for the first time in February 2012, to get a sense of what it was like there so that he could design a better system.

What he saw made him passionate about using his knowledge of environmental design to help.

“The earthquake had such a big impact on the country in 2010,” said Trobman. “The massive earthquake was really evident in the morale of people. I saw several kids at the medical missionary that came in walking with one leg. They had lost two of their brothers or their parents in the earthquake. Just giving them hope and seeing them walk out with a smile is so big. With my project, I’m hoping to give them vitamins so that they can survive.”

Trobman got involved in the project after a group from Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a church in Doylestown, contacted the college.

“It took me back a lot. It is very different than being in the U.S. The poverty level is incredible,” said Trobman. “When you walk around the streets and see people just struggling to survive...It is kind of like this helpless feeling, you are helping a few people, but you wish you could help everybody.”

Harris with the Hillel Club.

Above: Harris with the Hillel Club.

Harris with the Polish Exchange student group of 2012.

Above: Harris with the Polish Exchange student group of 2012.

Harris with Professor Michael Fleishacker.

Above: Harris with Professor Michael Fleishacker.