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Haiti One Year Later: UAlbany Students, Faculty, Staff Dedicated to Aiding Recovery

Loretta Pyles helps conduct training in Haiti following the Earthquake

School of Social Welfare Assistant Professor Loretta Pyles (far left, back row) conducted participatory action training for representatives from each of the 10 departments (states) of Haiti.

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ALBANY, N.Y. (January 12, 2011) -- One year after a devastating earthquake shook the island nation of Haiti, leaving more than 230,000 people dead and a million others homeless, members of the UAlbany community continue efforts to help rebuild the country and provide comfort and aid to those most in need.

Professor Transforming Development
UAlbany Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Loretta Pyles has visited Haiti several times since the January 12, 2010 earthquake. Pyles is helping smaller Haitian communities rebuild through a research project with community development groups throughout rural Haiti.

"Besides the devastation in Port-au-Prince, there has been a significant impact on the rural communities," said Pyles. "In addition to direct losses of lives and livelihoods, there has been a large influx of people back to the countryside from PAP through a reverse migration. This has put a tremendous strain on the resources in the rural communities since the earthquake. Discussing ways to rebuild sustainably at the community level is an important part of the recovery and ultimately the transformation of rural Haiti."

Port-au-Prince is Haiti's capital and largest city.

Focusing on the impact of the earthquake and ongoing development needs, the project, "Transforming Rural Haiti through Sustainable Grassroots Development," is a partnership between the School of Social Welfare and the Office of the National Peasant Congress (SEKONAPA).

In August 2010, Pyles led a three-day training program on participatory action research for delegates from each of the 10 departments (states) of Haiti. The delegates then return to their own home communities to conduct local community action plans.

Helping Haitian Children a Family Mission
Professor of Chemistry Charles P. Scholes is co-president of PAZAPA (which means step-by-step in Hatian Creole), an organization that assists children with disabilities in Jacmel, Haiti. Typically, about 100 children with developmental disabilities, some as young as three, receive schooling there during the day. Visiting volunteer physicians and other medical professionals have helped provide care and perform surgeries to correct problems that would be fixed almost immediately in the U.S. but are virtually unavailable in Haiti, particularly after the earthquake.

Charles P. Scholes and wife visit PAZAPA in December 2010

Professor Charles Scholes and his wife Nancy visit with the PAZAPA School for the Deaf faculty in December 2010.

PAZAPA's facility was destroyed by the quake, and the only road leading in and out of Jacmel was impassable after part of a mountain collapsed on it. Miraculously, all the children and staff were safe. PAZAPA-USA bought new land in April 2010, where classes in temporary structures are back in session and medical volunteers now visit. PAZAPA made sure that its 20-person faculty was continually supported and extra stipends provided. Food was distributed to the families of the disabled after the earthquake and PAZAPA's small business loan program was sustained.

Scholes helped support critical fundraising efforts, and to monitor progress, visited PAZAPA for a week in June and in Dec. 2010. For more than 20 years, PAZAPA has brought essential services to disabled children in a responsible and financially transparent way. In recognition, two large international agencies stepped up with significant financial support to help rebuild. As of Jan. 12, 2011, the walls of the new PAZAPA are being constructed. For community based rehabilitation and ultimately, better rural pre- and neonatal care, PAZAPA outreach has now been jump-started in Jacmel's rural "Mountains Beyond Mountains."

Scholes became active in PAZAPA after his son Jonathan E. Scholes, 33, died in 2007 of an aggressive cancer. Jonathan had a life-changing experience through the Peace Corps at PAZAPA in Jacmel during the 1990s. His parents now help continue his work.

Students Raise Funds and Hope
The UAlbany Haiti Relief fund, spurred in large part by UAlbany's Haitian Student Association (HSA), raised more than $75,000 to support health and recovery efforts. HSA members directly raised about one dollar out of every six donated, for a total of $5,840, while also boosting other donations through events, communications, and HSA student involvement with other campus organizations.

"On behalf of the Haitian Student Association, I would like to thank the University community for making our goals a reality," said UAlbany EOP counselor and Haitian Student Association adviser Patrick Romain following the conclusion of fundraising efforts in July of 2010. "Though the need is still huge, this will make a big difference in many people's lives."

A total of $37,924 was donated to the Haiti Relief Fund, and was matched dollar-for-dollar by University Auxiliary Services, increasing the amount provided to relief organizations by the extended UAlbany community to $75,848. This resulted in the Clinton-Bush Haiti Relief fund, Yele Haiti, and Partners in Health each receiving approximately $25,283.

To learn more about other opportunities where you can make a World of Difference, visit UAlbany's Community Connections.

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