On August 13, 2010, twenty members of the University of California Haiti Initiative began arriving in the Haitian capital, Port au Prince, for two weeks of meetings and site visits with potential partners. While some members of the group had prior experience in Haiti, for many it was their first trip to the quake-devastated country.
“The trip had a more profound impact on my learning, passion, and purpose than I ever could have imagined,” said Larisa Jacobson, a student at UC Davis and Co-Director of the Initiative’s Agricultural Sector. “Each day of the trip brought precious years of learning and new understanding of Haiti, the world, and our work. The trip was the deepest of learning experiences that left me with fresh perspectives, hope, and commitment to support Haitian reconstruction.”
UCHI participants on this trip represented six UC campuses: UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz. The group traveled to eight cities including Hinche, Mirebalais, Jacmel and Léogane where they met with community leaders and grassroots organizations. They met with heads of local governments and institutions, including heads of the Ministry of Health, the office of the Mayor, the Dean of Notre Dame University in Jacmel, and the Dean of the State University of Medicine and Pharmacy. UCHI members also met with other non-profits doing work in Haiti such as Partners in Health, Fonkoze, USAID, the Columbia Earth Institute, and the International Medical Corps. Moreover, they met with community groups in Papaye, Cayes-Jacmel and Port-au-Prince and visited a number of Haitian-run organizations like Bibliothèque du Soleil (a long-time partner of the UCSB Center for Black Studies Research), the OJFA orphanage, and the Bureau of Doleanses Sociales in the hard-hit community of Carrefour-Feuilles.
“Collaboration is at the core of the UC Haiti Initiative,” says Dr. Claudine Michel, UCHI Executive Co-Director and professor at UCSB. “We can contribute the passion and knowledge of our students, the experience and expertise of our faculty and staff, and the support of UC alums and administration. The real promise of UCHI exists in strong partnerships with the Haitian community. We are not developing projects for Haitians; we are developing projects with Haitians.”
Dr. Ami Ben-Artzi, UCHI Healthcare Co-Director and doctor at UCLA, found the trip both exhausting and informative: “The schedule ahead of the group was grueling: 6-7 meetings scheduled every day for each sector, with virtually no time to waste. The schedule set forth prior to the trip was constantly adjusted, depending on conditions; despite these hardships, we saw, listened, and learned.”
Initiative co-founder and Econ/Law Co-Director Will Smelko, “The trip proved to be the successful progression we were looking for, and has us excited and committed to developing the role of the University of California in providing a model for development and assistance. The people of Haiti, local organizations, and possible partner cities were extremely helpful, open, informative, and expressed their enthusiasm about the potential that the University of California has to offer to the earthquake shattered nation. In the coming months, we will continue to solidify our important partnerships, and advance the promising vision that the UC Haiti Initiative has to offer.”
The assessment trip was made possible through the support of: Gene Block, Chancellor, UCLA; Dr. Eugene Washington, Dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine; and Dr. Linda Rosenstock, Dean of the School of Public Health; Henry Yang, Chancellor, UCSB.
UCHI focus sectors include Agriculture, Arts & Culture, Economics, Education, Engineering & Architecture, and Healthcare. To speak directly to a faculty or student representative from one of these sectors, please contact Chryss Yost: (805) 893-3914 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The UC Haiti Initiative developed as a result of the student-initiated UC Haiti Summit held at UCSF in April 2010. UCHI is a group of faculty, students, researchers, staff, and alumni dedicated to mobilizing resources in the UC system for Haiti’s reconstruction. UCHI aims to form partnerships with Haitian academic institutions, community groups, non-profit organizations, and government agencies to enhance development and reconstruction through education and research. UHCI focuses on six core areas: Agriculture, Arts & Culture, Economics, Education, Engineering & Architecture, and Healthcare.
All projects will emphasize initiative and direction from our Haitian partnering institutions and organizations and helping develop self-sustaining, long-term mechanisms for continued development. UCHI is headquartered at the UCSB Center for Black Studies Research. Founded in 1969 and working under the UCSB Office of Research, the Center’s Haiti projects include publication of The Journal of Haitian Studies and hosting KOSANBA, a scholarly association for the study of Haitian Vodou. http://www.uchaiti.org