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The Past, Present, and Future of SUNY’s Work With Haiti

Chancellor Johnson, Chairman McCall sit with with other SUNY staff and Haitian locals in an open air gazebo watching Haitian drummers put on a musical exhibition.

SUNY’s commitment to global opportunities and education is present throughout the system, and a location that has seen collaboration and growth for many years is the island nation of Haiti. Numbers show that New York State contains the second largest population of Haitian immigrants in the United States. Those numbers show in the classrooms too. Students and families come to New York with the goals of becoming more educated to earn a path to stability in career and home.

With news circulating from Washington DC along with historic events being recognized today, we take a look back at some milestones to show the growth in successful partnerships between SUNY and Haiti.

Helping students in need

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck in 2010, causing incredible damage to the island nation. With the epicenter occurring right near the capital city of Port-au-Prince, the event caused hundreds of thousands of people to be displaced from their homes and businesses. During the worldwide effort to help rebuild, SUNY was ready to step up to help those in New York who were affected by this event.

On average, nearly 1,000 students from Haiti are enrolled at SUNY schools every year dating back to 2010. In a show of support, in September of 2011, the Board of Trustees issued a resolution providing an extension of tuition benefits for students affected by the earthquake in Haiti. In other words, the benefit of New York State resident tuition was granted to students who were Haitian nationals who could not return home due to the natural disaster that occurred. With that help, we saw hundreds of Haitian students complete and earn a degree from a SUNY school.

SUNY officials and locals from Akaye, Haiti gather together for a group photo outdoors where the SVLC will be in Haiti.

Building the communities of tomorrow

Fostering global communities – whether during times of need or not – and providing global education to our students are cornerstones of our mission. A new and exciting SUNY project that underscores this example is now making its way to Akayè, Haiti, thanks to a recent partnership between a number of SUNY schools and five not-for-profit organizations. In addition to SUNY’s and not-for-profit involvement and support, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation awarded a critical grant to launch the project and has pledged to remain involved in the mission to help Haiti grow. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in collaborative partnerships guided by local communities, fostering an even deeper international bond.

Through this project, we aim to help Haiti rebuild and flourish once again. Haiti has a remarkable history, and Akayè has provided the setting for achievements throughout Haiti’s fight for independence in the 1800’s. But despite many hardships, Haiti has many community success stories. The arts—music, song, dance, and drawing—continue to flourish and reflect Haiti’s rich culture. There are also potential opportunities within the hospitality and tourism industry to draw more people to the country’s beautiful shores.

This collective effort will both build up the village of Akayè, Haiti as well as give many students and faculty a truly unique opportunity to learn and work in a beautiful region in need.

The classroom moves to Haiti

Certain SUNY schools have their own efforts providing development and assistance to Haiti while also giving students a unique learning experience. We learned about one such example in 2015 through SUNY Broome’s Health for Haiti initiative. In this project, students at SUNY Broome Community College traveled to Haiti to lend a helping hand as part of a four-credit class. The students installed solar panels for energy use, taught young children digital skills, and brought food and clean water to citizens in need.

SUNY Broome students formed immediate friendships with the Haitians they met while also connecting with one another in new ways during the trip. “It’s probably going to be the best college course that I ever take,” said student Rachel Liddic. The experiences, memories, and friendships earned were truly one of a kind that makes this effort invaluable.

The efforts in offering access to education across the globe will continue to grow at SUNY. These are sure signs that no matter where you are from or where you are going, a path to higher education through learning, research, and professional development is waiting for you at The State University of New York.

Taras Kufel

Written by Taras Kufel

Taras Kufel is the Manager of Digital Engagement at the State University of New York.

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