The University of Miami has not forgotten its commitment to rebuilding Haiti.
In the midst of political instability, health epidemics and a crumbling city structure, Haiti is still reeling from the effects of the 2010 earthquake that affected the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as the cities of Leogane and Jacmel.
Students, faculty and staff all over campus are making important contributions, from the department of geological sciences studying the movement of tectonic plates to the Miller School of Medicine organizing health centers in Haiti.
As the first from UM to react to the disaster in Haiti, the Miller School of Medicine continues to be one of the biggest sources of aid by helping Haiti’s ill or wounded through Project Medishare. Project Medishare consists of a team of faculty from the UM schools of medicine and nursing who have treated more than 75,000 patients since the earthquake, providing the country with its only CAT scan, critical care center, pedriatic and neonatal intensive care unit, and spinal cord injury unit.
“It is the link between international health in the Caribbean to this campus,” said Dr. Enrique Ginzburg, a UM professor of surgery and a member of Project Medishare. “It has given me more purpose and direction as a physician, provided me expertise and experience in international health care.”
Support from other areas of the school abounds.
History professor Dr. Kate Ramsey, for instance, has been involved in circulating news through the Haiti Research Group listserv. Dr. Louis Herns Marcelin from the department of anthropology is greatly involved in education and research through the Port-au-Prince-based Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development (INURED). Furthermore, professors like Dr. Guerda Nicolas in the School of Education have participated in discussions covering higher education and mental health among earthquake victims.
But despite the variety of efforts made by members of the UM community, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
“It seems like everything is just slow down there. It might take 10-15 years for Haiti to be back, for the old Haiti to be back,” said senior Melissa Chamblain, president of the Haitian Student Organization (HSO). “It’s a year after and you’re seeing the dead corpses still under the rubble.”
Chamblain was in Port-au-Prince last year on vacation for winter break when the earthquake occurred.
“It was a strange experience for me,” she said. “I was just there to have fun and the earthquake just came out of nowhere.”
After her experience, she has lead HSO in a number of community service and cultural awareness events to raise funds for Haiti. The group is also planning a community outreach program by hosting weekly college workshops with elementary school students in Miami that recently arrived from Haiti.
Junior Arielle Duperval, the HSO events chair, was also in Haiti during the earthquake. She visited the country again in October and agrees that there is still a long road to improvement.
“Everything seemed almost the way I had left it, without the bodies and the injuries. The buildings were still collapsed, very little has been done to clear the wreckage and rebuild,” she said. “The most important way to contribute is to lend a physical hand, if that isn’t possible, to assist those who are able to go places some people can’t or won’t go.”
Aside from repairing physical wreckage and tending to the sick or injured, Haiti needs to rebuild a solid infrastructure for development. According to Dr. Pierre-Michel Fontaine, an international studies professor at UM, this means making the Haitian government accountable for its people, regulating building codes, reforestation, reestablishing a defense force and, most of all, prioritizing ending illiteracy.
“The country needs to be reborn rather than being reconstructed,” Fontaine said. “We need to go back to the 1960s, before Haiti started collapsing, to be able to move forward.”