The Skidmore-Haiti Initiative
In early January, a group of Skidmore faculty and staff travelled to Haiti for one week to build and further connections between the College and several organizations in Port-au-Prince and Fondwa. Since the catastrophic earthquake on January 12, 2010, followed by a persistent cholera epidemic which continues to this day, Skidmore faculty, staff, and students have engaged in multiple activities to support relief to Haiti's residents and also to build ties with two specific organizations:
Pure Water for the World, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Port-au-Prince, focuses on water rights, the delivery of potable water, and the promotion of hygienic best practices;
The University of Fondwa (UNIF), located in the community of Tom Gato, a rural and mountainous area two hours south and west of Port-au-Prince, specializes in agricultural sciences and provides opportunities for students to pursue business, foreign language, and technology offerings.
Members of the Skidmore-Haiti Initiative include Jordana Dym (History/Latin American Studies), Charlene Grant (Foreign Languages and Literature), Mark Youndt (Management and Business/Environmental Studies), and Ben Harwood (IT-Academic Technologies).
While on campus, they met with faculty, administrators and students. Like many building structures in and near Port-au-Prince, the school was leveled by the earthquake. Re-construction is slowly underway for new classrooms, dormitories, a library, and also a computer/technology center. Ben Harwood was invited to join the team in order to see firsthand and to better understand UNIF’s technology needs and plans and also, where appropriate, to make recommendations. Ben worked with UNIF staff and several American volunteers living in Fondwa to establish Skype videoconferencing as a communication channel between UNIF and Skidmore.
Thanks to Academic Technologies, Media Services, Technical Services, and User Services in the department of Information Technology, and also to Kelly Dempsey-Little and Brien Muller for donating personal laptops, the Skidmore-Haiti team delivered one LCD projector, four laptops, four Flip video cameras, networking equipment, and a number of USB thumb drives.
While a number of challenges continue to exist for UNIF, namely, access to electricity and running water, and also setting up an internet connection, the team accomplished its goals during this initial visit. The Skidmore-Haiti Initiative aims to develop opportunities for faculty, students, and staff to contribute not only financial support but also human capital based on Skidmore's program and community members' interests. Initial possibilities and opportunities include language exchange in English, French, and Spanish; developing course units and helping assemble materials to aid in the teaching of topics related to UNIF's agenda in agronomy, veterinary science, business, and the social sciences and humanities; and offering computing technology support.
Ben Harwood - Instructional Technologist, Academic Technologies