The result was WareWash, a drawer-style system resembling a dishwasher for sanitizing and storing test tubes and other lab glassware, and $3,000 into the Spanish Springs High School alum’s pocket. More important than the money, she received confidence by completing a task unrelated to her field of study.
“I feel like it keeps me on my toes in a way and it teaches me that I can jump out of my comfort zone if I see something pulling me that direction,” Geldert said about entering her design. “I learned new experiences and working through my research allowing me to critically think. I can always use those tools to apply in other settings. If I see something like that in my field I will have the confidence to apply what I learned there.”
Geldert studies Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Calif. and is about to step out of her comfort zone even further. Through a program called 'Hands of Light in Action,' Geldert and 11 other students departed Friday to Haiti for a three-week volunteer program. The ultimate goal is to help those still recovering from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010 through the installation of small-scale gardens.
Geldert, who will be moving into the school’s pre-veterinary curriculum soon, found particular interest in creating a sustainable food source for food supply animals.
“Food supply animals are given a bad rap,” Geldert said, “And people don’t think that they’re as important to keep healthy as their pet dog, but we are going to eat them so they should almost be healthier than our pets, in my opinion.”
Though establishing the gardens and teaching the Haitian people techniques for keeping them alive will take multiple trips to the third-world country, Geldert said a chance to test her theory will give her better knowledge and deeper understanding prior to entering her career field.
“(Some of the villages and people) are not aware of these technologies that we use in a small setting at my college,” she said. “We’re going to take those things that seem like a habit now for us and put them there. If we are able to implement a sustainable food system there, then why don’t we have a better one in America?
“Our food system is not as sustainable and as natural as it should be. If I am able to prove that it can be sustainable where they begin with nothing, it gives me the confidence to bring it back to America when I get to (start) my career.”
Geldert did not hesitate when asked to work in her field as a volunteer, and during the chaos of Finals Week she was quite calm about her first trip out of the country. However, just days prior to her departure, she said it was sinking in that she would soon be without the simplest of American amenities.
“It is third-world and we have to bring all our own food––all our own everything––and everything that I take for granted is going to be highlighted,” she said. “I am excited for that rude awakening because it will snap me into perspective. I don’t know the world, and if I want to change the world, I have to know it. I know it is juvenile to think I can change the world, but I want to keep that young spirit as long as I can.”
Geldert will be accompanied by a program director who is familiar with the area of Haiti where she will be working, which she said made the situation “uncomfortable, but safe.” She hopes that her follow-up trips to the country will not only ease her mind but provide long-term benefits for Haiti’s current inhabitants.
“We kind of open the trip (by hosting a soccer camp) because when you play sports with other people it brings camaraderie and it makes you like a team,” she said. “We run alongside them and then we live alongside them and we are able to make the change alongside them. I think that is the biggest thing I am going to be able to bring back in terms of how to implement a sustainable food source.
“It is about much more than just providing this food source for them it is about teaching them how to do it when we are gone,” Geldert said. “We want to teach them the reasons why it will be beneficial and what the bigger, future picture looks like. We want them to understand the goal and that is going to need more than one visit.”