Howard students find Optimism in Haitian Youth

Sophia Francois, Rodlin Christolin and Yves Bernard Remorais are charting a new course for Haiti: they are part of a growing number of young people in their early and mid-20s who dream of a brighter future for Haiti through a proposed Youth Haitian Ambassadors Council. The Council hopes to bring young people to the policy table for meaningful inclusion.

Steeve Simbert, a 20-year-old Haitian student studying in Washington D.C., authored the White Paper – “Call for the Creation of a Youth Haitian Ambassadors Council.” In his case, Simbert maintains the idea that “Young leaders in every country represent their country with the utmost passion and pride. More than ever, in this globalized era, we need the Youth Haitian Ambassadors Council to promote the Haitian Dream – a dream that brings opportunity, economic sustainability and prosperity in Haiti through Union.”

Today, Howard and Haitian university students had thought provoking dialogue and explored solutions to challenges and opportunities for Haitians, Haitian Americans and Americans as a whole.

Sophia Francois received a scholarship to study accounting at a university in New York. In exchange, she committed to return to Haiti after her two years of studies. The January 2010 earthquake struck with six months remaining in her studies. Francois had the opportunity to stay in the university under Temporary Protection Status, an immigration status extended to Haitians due to the quake, but opted to return to Haiti.

“I saw what was happening in Haiti and the country I love,” said Francois, who currently interns for the mobile phone giant Ericsson in Haiti. “ I had to come home to do my part to improve conditions her.”

Haitian American and ASB Haiti co-coordinator Phelisha Midy found the cause and the conviction of the students inspiring.

“This was motivation to me,” said Midy, who is volunteering in Haiti for the second consecutive year. “It makes me proud to be a Haitian, but it also provides tremendous hope for Haiti’s future.”

Howard students shared ideas with the Council members about the use of social and traditional media to build support among young constituents.

“We have seen the vital role social media has played in transformations at home and around the world,” said Shannez Thompson, a junior fashion merchandizing major.

“We also suggested using influential artists as opinion leaders to mobilize Haitian youth.”

During the day, the Howard delegation met with members of the current government, community activists, business leaders and the former Minister of Commerce and Tourism Danielle Saint-Lot. Former Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier, “Baby Doc,” also lauded Howard students’ work in Haiti during an afternoon visit to Karibe in Petionville, east of Port-au-Prince. The meetings were facilitated by Howard supporter and Haitian advocate, Rev. Marcia Dyson.

After a full day of engagement, the team will spend the rest of the week providing dental care, hearing screening, building the foundation for a micro finance bank and a number of educational activities.

Keep following our work at Howard.edu/HowardinHaiti

Kerry-Ann Hamilton, director of strategic communications and marketing, is traveling with Howard University volunteers on their service mission to Haiti. The blog “Howard Brings Hope to Haiti” chronicles the travels and work of nearly two dozen students, faculty and staff during Alternative Spring Break 2012.

Howard’s ASB Haiti Volunteers meet with Sean Penn Actor and Haitian Ambassador

Photograph by Justin Knight

The 22-member Howard delegation arrived to Haiti and had their first lesson in diplomacy and development shortly after disembarking the sold out American Airlines flight from Miami to Port-au-Prince.

Rev. Marcia Dyson, a loyal Howard supporter, traveled with ASB Haiti volunteers from Washington. Dyson told actor and advocate Sean Penn, who was also on the outbound flight from Miami, about the work Howard students were doing in Haiti. Yes, the meeting was solidified from 30,000 ft! When we landed, the group was shuttled to a private reception area to meet with Ambassador Penn.

Penn greeted students and encouraged their commitment and dedication to help Haiti.

The noted American actor and humanitarian was named Ambassador at Large earlier this month by Haitian Prime Minister Michel Martelly to honor Penn’s work to improve and shed light on conditions in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake.

“Congratulations on your work Mr. Penn,” said Saidat Ilo, a second year doctoral student in Political Science. The gracious Penn expressed his gratitude and emphasized that there was more work to be done.

There was lot of excitement about the impromptu meeting.

Kerry-Ann Hamilton, director of strategic communications and marketing, is traveling with Howard University volunteers on their service mission to Haiti. The blog “Howard Brings Hope to Haiti” chronicles the travels and work of nearly two dozen students, faculty and staff during Alternative Spring Break 2012.

Howard Returns to Haiti

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Haiti has left the front pages of mainstream media, but the need remains greater than ever as the Caribbean nation continues to reel from the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that crippled Port-au-Prince.

For the second consecutive year, Howard University’s Alternative Spring Break program includes Haiti. Approximately, two dozen students, faculty and staff are en route to Haiti for a week of service learning. Haiti

Howard has expanded its partnership with the Haitian American Caucus (HAC-Haiti) at the Ecole Shalom/Alpha Academy and will provide support for HAC’s after school, English language, literacy, microfinance and women’s empowerment programs. HAC-Haiti is a community development organization operating in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti. Howard volunteers will also provide dental hygiene and hearing screenings.

The Howard delegation to Haiti is part of a group of more than 300 students who have skipped the beach and are volunteering in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans and Washington D.C. Read more about the Howard University Alternative Spring Break.

File Photographs by Kerry-Ann Hamilton/ASB Haiti 2011.

Howard University students visit Haitian classroom

Source: Washington Post

A delegation from Howard University traveled to Haiti for Spring Break on a mission of service. Kerry-Ann Hamilton, media relations manager, is chronicling their travels. Here is her third and final post.


David, 15, is a sixth grade student at Ecole Bon Samaritain in Archaie, Haiti. He climbs a mountain every day to get to school. It takes him almost two hours to get there and another two hours to get home.
The day we met, he was in grammar class. His classroom is an unfinished annex located in the rear of the main school building. The walls are exposed concrete bricks and there are no doors or windows in the room. The space houses two classes, which are separated only by an aisle.

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Aristide Returns

We were in the airport when Former Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide returned to Haiti after seven years in exile. The return was highly anticipated.

Earlier this week, we passed his home and preparation was underway. The entrance was freshly painted in a peach/pink color.  We saw men adorning the high perimeter wall with dozens of Haitian flags.

We left for the airport early to avoid any possible pandemonium. As we approached the heart of Port au Prince, we saw several UN vehicles and a number of armed UN soldiers.

There was a tense calm in the air as we disembarked our chartered bus. Airport security was extremely elevated. We went through four security check points including two body searches and a pair of x-rays.

Shortly after we settled down in the departure lounge, we saw several airport workers rushing to a nearby exit. They got word of Aristide’s arrival and wanted to get a glimpse. I was able to see the former president’s chartered plane from a gift shop on the ground floor and was able to snap an obstructed photograph. Leaving the airport would have been risky[I decided not to]. Instead, I headed to the food court with televisions.

Several locals were glued to the screen. Ironically, most foreigners appeared oblivious playing cards, reading or chatting with family and friends.

Aristide’s arrival speech was about 30 minutes in length. It was delivered in at least five languages – French, Creole, Spanish, Swahili and English.  With the help of a colleague, I was able to get the gist of his remarks delivered in Creole.

Among other things, he told the crowd, “My brothers and sisters, union makes us stronger; division makes us weak.”

I was excited about the opportunity to witness history, but was relieved when the Howard delegation was able to depart safely. However,  we will keep our new friends and the people of Haiti in our thoughts and prayers.

Howard students hear from rape survivors in Haiti

Howard students hear from rape survivors in Haiti

Source: Washington Post

Every day in Haiti is revealing, from the island’s beauty to earthquake’s devastation to the grinding poverty to the resilience and determination of its people. But on Tuesday, our group had a rare and humbling conversation with two women. As we listened, some of us were stunned into silence. Many of us wept at the horror of their tales.

Their story is one of rape and horrific sexual abuse — for them and their children — of abandonment, loss, child slavery and degradation.

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Large Net, Small Fish

This morning, I woke up shortly after 5. I came outside with my computer with the intent of catching up on blog posts. As I walked out, I saw four fishermen pulling in what appeared to be a heavy net. I asked about the net with my limited Creole vocabulary. I think the nonverbal said a lot. The message that I received said, “It’s not that much.”

Yet the four men used all their strength against the currents and the crashing waves to pull in the net. The entire time I was hoping the net had enough to feed them and their families for a day or even a meal as I negotiated in my head.

After about 45 minutes of pulling, the net finally made it to the shore. I watched the youngest man toss the sea urchins that were caught in the net back into the sea. The net had more more than 3 dozen small fish. He then scooped up the fish in his hand and placed them in a deep wicker basket.  Meanwhile, fish continued wiggling and jumping. It was about 2 dozen or so.

I thought to myself, everyday around the world we cast our nets wide. Some of us consistently get a whale, while others are content with a snapper. Today, as I watch these fishermen sort through their small fish I could not help but to examine the metaphorical and philosophical.

Notwithstanding, we must continue to cast our nets otherwise hope escapes. Within minutes of reloading the net on the boat the rowed away to try again to cast their net. I wish them well!

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Howard Helps Haiti Rebuild

howard helps haiti rebuild

Source: Washington Post

Almost 30 Howard University students are here on a weeklong mission as part of the university’s Alternative Spring Break program, an annual service mission in which hundreds of Howard students travel the nation to help in underserved communities.

However, this mission is like none in the 17-year history of the program, including the year we sent nearly 500 students to New Orleans in 2006 to help following Hurricane Katrina.

Haiti is still recovering from the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.  The devastation is everywhere. Read More