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Geology professor offers hope to Haitian high schoolers

Between two visits in 2007 and 2008, associate professor of geology Peter Wampler has spent enough time in Haiti to feel its brokenness.

“I had the privilege of getting to know many young Haitians with big dreams of becoming a doctor or engineer some day, but their economic status and living conditions make this almost impossible for them to attain,” he said.

In the wake of the 2010 earthquake that devastated the already-struggling Haiti, both Wampler and Mark Schaub, executive director of the Padnos International Center, began conversations that lead to the creation of the Empowering Haiti Through Education fund, which will allow “rising stars” from Haitian High schools pursue higher education at Grand Valley State University.

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Courtesy Photo / Peter Wampler A young Haitian carries a bucket up a rocky hill
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Courtesy Photo / Peter Wampler Haitian children pose for a photograph

“The words ‘empowering’ and ‘education’ are the keys words in the name of the fund,” Wampler said. “I firmly believe that if we can empower Haitians through education many of the problems that they have will lessen. When they are faced with a natural or human disaster they will be able to respond with confidence.”

It will take $250,000 to bring the first Haitian student to GVSU, Wampler said. The funds for the Empower Haiti Through Education scholarships are privately raised in their entirety, relying on the donations from students, faculty and staff at GVSU as well as community groups and other individuals from West Michigan.

In short term, Wampler said his main goal is to raise enough funds to bring the first Haitian student to GVSU, but he hopes in the long run that GVSU will be known throughout the Midwest for reaching out to Haitian students.

“I would like to expand that already great resum?© to include a place where students from Haiti can find opportunity and education which they can take back to Haiti to help restore their land,” he said. “This scholarship can be a beginning toward that end.”

Schaub said with the corruption in Haiti, many frustrated Haitians never see the money promised to them, fostering a sense of cynicism about how exactly to help. The Empowering Haiti Through Education funds will be housed in Michigan at GVSU with interest that will go directly to a Haitian secondary school student.

“Despite billions in aid, promises of additional billions, considerable help from generous individuals, groups and nations, there is a cholera epidemic, hundreds of thousands without shelter or food and mountains of unmoved rubble,” Schaub said. “There are just slim rays of hope.”

Wampler said although he encourages all GVSU students to get involved any way they can with rebuilding Haiti, he believes this is an opportunity to get involved in something that can potentially have a sustainable impact on Haiti.

“This is a chance to “get in on the ground floor” so to speak,” he said. “Someday I hope we look back and see that this small beginning has grown into a very big change for Haiti, its people and GVSU.”

To get involved or to donate, e-mail Wampler at wamplerp@gvsu.edu

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