Thursday, March 4th, Merrick Life
by Giita Haynes
For one Merrick resident, the answer was in Haiti.
Prashanta Jacobson didn’t imagine his first days after graduating college would be spent in a disaster zone unlike anything ever seen in the western hemisphere, but one month after receiving his undergraduate degree, he found himself in Haiti, volunteering for a relief organization.
A Merrick resident, Prashanta graduated from the Progressive School of Long Island, and Calhoun High School. “I first got interested in service at Progressive School where it was a natural part of our learning process.” Middle-schoolers have a weekly class period devoted to volunteerism. Prashanta is not the only one to go on to do service. “My old classmate, Katie Fallon, and I each took a year off during college to do service. I went to Nicaragua to work in a Neo-Humanist school like Progressive, and Katie worked in Panama with the Red Cross. As a result of my experiences in Nicaragua, I took up an interest in Applied Anthropogy, a new field wherein anthropologists don’t just observe, they get involved. This is the area I want to work in.”
When asked what led him to Haiti, Prashanta replied, “Actually, I had just graduated Stony Brook this December, and I was planning to take some time off to rest before looking for a job, then, BANG, the earthquake hit. I found myself free and interested in helping.”
Prashanta worked through AMURT (Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team).
“I had contacts in the organization through the Progressive School, and I was attracted to AMURT because they are small, they have a good track record in Haiti, and they only use 8% of donations for their overhead.”
Prashanta described the conditions in Port-Au-Prince as “hellish,” but was quick to add that there is plenty of joy, hope, and resiliency.
“Right now it’s hard to get a job, but there is never a shortage of help needed in doing service. I have seen plenty of suffering right here in New York.”
While in Haiti, Prashanta helped plan art and theater programs for children in different locations throughout the disaster zone where tent communities formed. “Many children have been left without homes, and are out in the sun, around human waste and disorder all day. It really isn’t child-friendly. These programs will keep children safe, and give them a positive experience during this traumatic and hard time.”
When asked if the people were grateful for his help, Prashanta became philosophical, “I don’t expect thanks for what I’ve been doing; I am thankful that I could be of some use.”
What’s next for Prashanta? “I’ve been invited to give a presentation about my latest trip at the Progressive School, and then I am going to start looking for a job … unless another opportunity falls into my lap.”