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The Skidmore-Haiti Initiative

Posted: 02/11/2011

Since the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti in January, 2010, Skidmore faculty, staff and students have engaged in a range of activities aimed at providing relief to Haiti residents. As an outgrowth of these efforts, four Skidmore people -- having spent six days in Haiti during the January break -- are now inviting others to join them in a more structured “Skidmore-Haiti Initiative.” The initial focus will be on developing collaborations with the University of Fondwa (UNIF), located in a mountainous area two hours southwest of Port-au-Prince, and Pure Water for the World (PWW), an NGO based in Rutland, VT that focuses on a range of water-related issues in developing countries and has mounted a major effort in Haiti.

Those who made the flight to Haiti were Jordana Dym, associate professor of history and director of the Latin American Studies Minor program; Charlene Grant, lecturer in foreign languages and literatures; Mark Youndt, associate professor of management and business, and Ben Harwood, instructional technologist. Collectively, they took more than a thousand photos during their stay. This gallery features just a few.

In launching the Skidmore-Haiti Initiative, they aim to develop opportunities for faculty, students, and staff to contribute not only financial support but also human capital keyed to the strengths and interests of the Skidmore community. At the University of Fondwa, which is located in a mountainous region two hours southwest of Port-au-Prince, the experience will be highly rural. With Pure Water for the World, which is focusing its relief efforts on Port-au-Prince, the experience will be more urban in nature. Because of the travel warning that's currently in place, the initial focus will be on collaborations that can be developed broadly via the Internet and particularly via Skype.

"The goal is to embed Haiti as place where -- whether you're a business major, an environmental studies major, or a language major -- there's a way to connect what you're doing with some of the projects we're developing," said Dym. "We're asking: What is it that we do well here at Skidmore that we can contribute and doesn't necessarily imply a trip to Haiti? We're looking for ways to get a conversation going and have people buy into a piece of it."

Collaborations with UNIF, she said, might 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 support in computing technology.

"This is education at a very high level -- if they have the materials, if they have the human capital," noted Grant, who has joined the UNIF-USA steering committee. "This is what we want to be part of."

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Want to learn more? Just contact any of the Initiative's four founding members.