Four years later Haiti continues to rebuild
Courtesy / Paul Kujala
Students on their way to school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the earthquake in January 2010.
It has been four years since the magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and more than a million others homeless.
Since then, Grand Valley State University geology professor Peter Wampler has been working to raise money and awareness for those affected by the quake. In 2011, he began the Empowering Haiti through Education Fund with the help of Mark Schaub, the chief international officer at the Padnos International Center.
“I think of it as a long-term investment to help things change,” Wampler said. “Haitians are amazing people with amazing stories and amazing ambitions, but no place to take them. We can help make it better.”
Although still in the fundraising stage, Wampler said the group has raised more than $18,000 between its start in 2011 and August 2013. His immediate goal is for the fund to become endowed, which would make it permanent. This will happen when the group reaches $30,000. The long-term goal, Wampler said, is to bring a Haitian student to GVSU, which requires $120,000.
“The more we can raise awareness, the more we can get people to contribute,” Wampler said.
Cathie Jean, a senior at GVSU, has been the president of the Students for Haiti club since its formation in 2012. The group works to raise money for the fund through various events, such as the annual Haitian Dinner Night in February and Haitian Games Night in April. She said she first learned of the scholarship from a friend before connecting with Wampler.
“When I learned more about it and learned that it was a scholarship for Haitian students in Haiti, I was super happy because a lot of names and faces came to my mind as potential candidates,” Jean said. “They want an education, and that is what this scholarship is aiming for — education and opportunity.”
She said she wanted to get involved because she is Haitian, and her parents have always told her to remember where she is from and to learn how to give back. Her family has sent money and clothes to help out whenever possible, and they have also helped pay for Haitians to get an education.
“School has always been a privilege in Haiti,” Jean said. “The opportunity for them to come study at a university here in the U.S. is an amazing new step and way of giving back that I would like to see happen.”
Wampler most recently visited Haiti in 2013. The airport and many homes had been rebuilt, and the roads were cleaner. Though the nation has improved since the earthquake, he said Haiti still needs long-term sustainable solutions to help further develop the people’s own abilities and infrastructure without outside help from other countries.
In Jean’s opinion, Haiti has not made significant progress in the past four years. Despite the growing tourism industry, few new buildings have been constructed and Haiti still lacks the proper funding and housing to meet the public’s needs.
For more information about the Empowering Haiti through Education Fund and ways to get involved, visit www.gvsu.edu/haiti.