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Rotaract, Project Medishare team up to help impoverished Haiti

In a country where 92 percent of all children are malnourished and unemployment is not just a problem but a country-wide epidemic, one student group has devised a way to help.

The members of the University of Miami Rotaract Club, a college branch of the Rotary club, teamed up with the Project Medishare in order to help the impoverished nation of Haiti.

Project Medishare was founded four years ago by two physicians, Dr. Barth Green and Dr. Arthur Fournier, both of whom are associated with the UM’s Miller School of Medicine. The program sends groups of student volunteers to Haiti during the spring and summer breaks.

In addition to raising money for medical supplies, the student volunteers learn about the country’s health problems and educate Haitian citizens while working in collaboration with the Haitian Ministry of Health. Project Medishare is fully supported by the Haitian community and almost completely run by Haitian citizens, said Alexandra de Filippo, a public relations representative for Rotaract.

The most recent plan for Project Medishare is the construction of an agricultural facility that hopes to provide thousands of Haitians with jobs and reduce the country’s 80 percent unemployment rate.

“These are only some of the advantages of our project, which we have estimated will benefit 200,000 Haitians in a two year period, especially vulnerable groups such as undernourished children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and HIV/AIDS and TB patients,” de Filippo said.

The new agricultural facility will produce a substance known as Akamil, which consists of rice, beans, corn and grains. The Akamil will be distributed among Haitian citizens who cannot afford food or are too weak to work.

Rotaract hopes the daily production of Akamil will reach 10 tons a day. To better understand this amount, one pound of Akamil can serve nine meals.

“We wanted to start by providing for the most basic needs because you cannot educate someone who is not nourished,” de Filippo said.

Though Rotaract has taken on the task of raising funds for Project Medishare, the group requests the help of the student community and other service organizations.

“As we are approaching our campaign goal, we would like to spread awareness on campus, not only to get the support from the community but also to inspire other organizations by demonstrating that the materialization of programs as ambitious as this campaign is possible,” de Filippo said.

If the Rotaract Club raises $125,000, a private donor will match the amount, amounting to $250,000 in aid. At the moment, Rotaract is $29,000 from reaching their goal.

The Rotaract Club at UM was founded by a group of friends who wanted to volunteer and reverse Haiti’s deterioration. Now, the members of the club are reaching out to the community and hoping that education about the state of Haiti will fuel a movement towards change.

Rotaract will next meet on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. in UC Ballroom C. For more information, please contact rotaract_um@yahoo.com.

Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at k.meshbane@umiami.edu.

September 22, 2006

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.