Hope for Haiti

FIU focuses on long-term solutions for Haiti’s future


FIU physician Dr. Pilar Martin has made numerous trips to Haiti, where she has a longstanding relationship with Rose-Mina de Diegue Orphanage in Port Au Prince. While there, Dr. Martin has delivered relief supplies and provided medical care in orphanages, tent cities and at various clinics.

FIU’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences alumni and faculty have been working with organizations such as the Haitian American Nurses Association to re-establish nursing education and provide nursing primary care. The college is collaborating with the University of Haiti in the development of instructional infrastructure, faculty and curriculum for programs in nursing and physical therapy. Most recently, FIU participated in the first international symposium organized by the Haiti Nursing Foundation on “The Future of Nursing Education in Haiti.”


FIU’s Carlos A. Costa Immigration and Human Rights Clinic in the College of Law organized and led several training sessions to educate students, faculty and community members on how to appropriately fill out the complicated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) form. The clinic, which is led by professor Troy Elder, then paired the trained volunteers with non-profit organizations throughout South Florida that were holding free TPS clinics for Haitians living in the United States. The FIU clinic also helped several other non-profits and area law schools to recruit trained Creole-speaking volunteers to man their TPS clinics so that as many eligible Haitians as possible could apply for TPS.


Nine students in the College of Business Administration’s master’s of international business program, under the supervision of Associate Dean Jerry Haar, have identified five Haitian industries that have great prospects for increasing exports. The team has assessed the strengths and weaknesses of these industries and identified U.S. wholesalers and retailers in these industries that may be interested in importing products from Haiti. Haar’s students recently received funding from CBA Executive Dean Joyce Elam to travel to Haiti to assist – under the guidance of Matthias Pierre, a Haitian entrepreneur – 10 companies in taking advantage of the export opportunities the team has identified.


The university’s Hope for Haiti Task Force involves more than 100 participants from across the university led by Senior Vice President for External Relations Sandra Gonzalez-Levy. The task force meets monthly to coordinate the university’s efforts.

The university has mobilized more than 270 volunteer Creole-speaking interpreters to assist community organizations in need of translation assistance. The volunteers are a mix of students, faculty, alumni and community members. Among the projects the translators have been involved with: translating during registration of Haitians for Temporary Protected Status and translating materials to instruct Haitians on how to fit prosthetic devices on amputees.

Students in the College of Education have been tutoring displaced students in several schools of the Miami-Dade County Public School System.


The Frost Art Museum is making plans to donate pieces of Haitian art from its collection back to Haiti to help restore the country’s cultural heritage. Many of the country’s most significant collections and works of art were destroyed in the earthquake. The Frost has more than 400 pieces of Haitian art. During the summer, the museum showcased select pieces from the collection in an exhibit named, “Tap-Tap: Celebrating the Art of Haiti.” The Frost plans to travel the exhibit to locations where people are not familiar with Haitian art. Later, when Haitian cultural institutes are ready, the museum will return some of the pieces to Haiti. To further rebuild Haiti’s cultural patrimony, the Frost is gathering information from collections all over Florida and the South to create a registry of Haitian art.


Professor Emel Ganapati in the Department of Public Administration has received a National Science Foundation grant to study the housing recovery process in the Petionville, Delmas and Canape Vert communities. In May, his team spent 11 days in Haiti conducting interviews and focus groups with Haitian citizens and policy makers. They will return this fall to continue research.

Professor Sylvan Jolibois in the College of Engineering and Computing served on a field reconnaissance team in Haiti for the Earthquake Engineering Research Institutes. The teams are made up of scientists and engineers who are dispatched to disaster areas to survey damage.


The FIU Libraries and the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), a consortium administered by the Latin American and Caribbean Center and FIU Libraries, are leading the Protecting Haitian Patrimony Initiative to help Haiti’s libraries and archives protect their collections and support the preservation of Haitian heritage. The Protecting Haitian Patrimony Initiative, involving numerous universities and nonprofit partners, has raised more than $8,000 to restore and rebuild libraries in Haiti. In February and June, dLOC coordinator, Brooke Wooldridge, traveled to Haiti to assist the libraries and archives in planning the next phase of recovery. The initiative is working to raise awareness, financial resources and in-kind donations, and to partner with the Hiaitian libraries on grants to further strengthen the collections.


FIU recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Haiti for long-term educational cooperation and support. The University of Haiti, the country’s largest institution for higher education, suffered catastrophic damage in the earthquake, with 80 percent of its facilities destroyed. In the agreement, FIU and the University of Haiti commit to exploring the development of educational programs, research, online courses and help with the curriculum.

This summer, FIU’s Latin American and Caribbean Center in the School of International and Public Affairs hosted one of the largest Haitian Summer Institutes since the program began in 1997. A number of the 26 participants in the six-week program were professionals who completed the program and headed directly to Haiti for relief and reconstruction work. This year’s program featured intensive Haitian Creole language training at the basic, intermediate and advanced levels and seminars on Haitian history and culture.

The Latin American and Caribbean Center is hosting University of Haiti professor Watson Denis as a visiting professor for Summer 2010 through Spring 2011. Denis is a scholar of Haitian thought, international relations and Caribbean history. While at FIU, he is continuing his research on earthquakes in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and their impact on education, economic development and decentralization. He is also serving as an advisor to FIU students working on Haiti and supporting Haiti-related LACC initiatives, including helping LACC strengthen its partnerships in Haiti and the diaspora.

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