At 5 p.m. yesterday, associate anthropology professor Rose-Marie Chierici discussed her work with the country of Haiti and its health, economic and educational needs.
Chierici emigrated from Haiti to the United States in 1960 after her father, a social justice advocate, had been imprisoned several times for political reasons. Nearly 50 years later, she still maintains a connection with Haiti via an organization called Haitian Outreach - Pwoje Espwa.
H.O.P.E. is a non-governmental organization, meaning that it receives no federal funding, that exists as a small group of people providing personalized aid for the people of Borgne, a small community on the coast of Haiti.
Chierici described Borgne as region of wonderful scenery and a great view of the ocean. The people, however, live in abject poverty, lacking a developed infrastructure and medical, educational and economic resources. H.O.P.E., she explained, works directly with these impoverished communities, learning which issues they see as most pressing and working with residents on projects aimed at improving their basic quality of life.
According to Chierici, health is one of H.O.P.E.'s foremost focuses. Due to a lack of medical resources, the people of Borgne consistently suffer and die from diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and malnutrition, which are easily preventable in wealthier nations.
Prior to H.O.P.E.'s intervention, Chierici said Borgne had no medical services at all. H.O.P.E. began by operating a free clinic, but later, through partnership with other prominent organizations such as UNICEF, they were able to establish a full-fledged, functioning hospital. The hospital is complete with qualified staff and lab testing, and services at least 3,000 patients a month.
Although health is indeed a predominant factor, H.O.P.E. provides aid in several other aspects as well. According to Chierici, the organization also supports education for the local children. Clean water and effective sanitation are other main objectives, and reforestation is a key initiative; about 3,000 trees have been planted to date.
Chierici said that H.O.P.E. also works closely with Haitian organizations to develop sustainable, applicable technology. Engineers in one under-powered community developed street lamps powered by wind.
After Chierici's initial lecture and a slide show of photographs from her latest trip, English professor Wes Kennison spoke about his experiences working with H.O.P.E. and of being "almost envious" of the Haitian understanding of the difference between want and need and their freedom from the materialism prevalent in the U.S.
Chierici said she returns to Borgne about four times a year. Due to the unstable political situation in Haiti, however, the study abroad program will not arrange for students to go. Both Chierici and Kennison called this policy unfair and declared that although much of Haiti might be unstable, Borgne is quite safe.
Chierici and Kennison voiced their support for a change in the study abroad program's policies which would place the focus on the safety of the individual destination rather than the country as a whole.