Youth aims to help people worldwide

Hannah McAtee greets children at an orphanage in India. She spent two months doing an internship in that country at a seed plant.

By Anne Marie Amacher

Inspired by her grandfather helping the poor in another country, Hannah McAtee would like to follow in his shadow by helping others in impoverished areas around the world.

Hannah, a recent graduate of Central High School in Davenport and currently a freshman at Arizona State University, plans to study global health and pre-medicine and hopes to eventually become a medical doctor. Once she achieves that goal, she would like to work on projects abroad with an organization such as Doctors Without Borders.

“My grandpa has been my inspiration,” Hannah said. Her grandfather is Dr. Alan Hathaway, a Quad-City dentist who has traveled to Brazil for decades to give free dental care through the Davenport Diocese’s Diocesan Volunteer Program.


In her quest for knowledge of the various needs around the world, Hannah was involved in a variety of groups at Central High School. Eventually she attended a conference sponsored by World Food Prize and landed a summer internship in India this year.

For two months she lived and worked in India at the biotech laboratory for Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Co., Ltd., also known as Mahyco. She learned about the lab and was able to perform experiments on how to make seeds more resistant to drought and pests. Her project involved trying to make cabbage grow better in the varying India climate that goes from monsoons to the dry season.

Elsewhere at Mahyco, employees worked with a variety of seeds. They have already genetically altered cotton that works with India’s climate, she noted.

One reason for doing the modification, Hannah said, is to enable food growth for the people of India and eventually elsewhere in the world. “We learn how you can fight hunger and poverty.” One way is to adapt seeds to the conditions of a particular area so that food can be produced locally.

During twice-daily tea breaks from the lab, the locals taught Hannah some Hindi, which is the language other than English spoken there.

Also during her trip, Hannah volunteered at an eye hospital where she followed a doctor, observed surgeries and helped the receptionist type dictation from the doctors who dictated everything in English.

She also visited an orphanage, went to Delhi, visited churches in Goa where there is a strong Portuguese Catholic presence, saw the Taj Mahal and went to Barwale College and Golden Jubilee School where she gave a presentation on life and education in the United States.

This fall Hannah will get her chance to inspire other high school students to consider a World Food Prize internship. She will give a talk to the students at a conference. “It’s my turn to inspire.”

During her studies at Arizona State, Hannah hopes to participate in study abroad.

She also plans to get active in campus ministry at the university and hopes to be a lector there as she has been in her home parish of Holy Family in Davenport. Her work in India won’t be far from her mind.

“It was a unique experience,” Hannah said. “I think my path will lead me back to India some day.”

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