USF students to help rebuild Haitian cities

A local organization will attempt to rebuild Haitian cities affected by a major earthquake in 2010, and they are using USF students to do it.

Recruited students will help design blueprints for rebuilding five cities in Haiti. Their work will also aid the Haitian economy, which “suffered a severe setback” when an earthquake struck the island in 2010, according to the CIA website.

The students will work alongside the Haiti Recovery & Development Company (HR&DC), said HR&DC Vice President Dino Eliadis. The company was founded by Jim Lange, a Tampa businessman, and was created to interrupt the current economic cycle in Haiti.

“Relief organizations have helped in Haiti, but have made Haitians dependent on them,” Eliadis said. “We have a more economical focus to create jobs and money for houses – the basic necessities to build an economy.”

According to the CIA website, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, with “80 percent of the population” living in poverty.

Former USF student body President Cesar Hernandez, a senior majoring in biomedical science and political science, sits on HR&DC’s executive team and will recruit USF students that he said are “talented, bright individuals … who want to build a city through intellectual design.”

The students will work under the Haitian Renaissance Delegation, a “leg” of the HR&DC composed of two committees: The American Delegation and The Global Delegation.

“We will partner up students with professors from the U.S. and from the world to work on ideas and set the blueprints for the cities,” Hernandez said. “(The delegations) will give the recommendations to HR&DC and then they will do the hard labor.”

Hernandez said HR&DC wants to recruit 30 students to the American Delegation from 15 to 18 different disciplines, such as the College of Architecture, College of Business and College of Education.

The Global Delegation hasn’t started recruitment, but will be comprised of students from different universities all over the country, Hernandez said.

In addition to rebuilding the five cities, the HR&DC also plans to construct a national memorial in the city of Titanyen to honor the more than 300,000 people who died during the earthquake, Eliadis said.

Yet, to do so they will have to overcome landownership problems. Usually when someone owns land it transfers to their children, Eliadis said, but since people have died from the earthquake, others have claimed the land.

To avoid conflict, Eliadis said the company will avoid those areas.

HR&DC is currently involved in negotiations to secure three different areas of land to either build a city or develop an existing city: one in each of the northern, central and southern regions of the country. The memorial location has already been secured through a verbal agreement with a landowner, Eliadis said.

The location chosen in the south is near a mountain range and, to avoid a flood, the company plans to include a water reservoir or a dam in the blueprints. In the central region, they plan to build or incorporate existing Haitian businesses, while the northern location will be a blank slate to build homes, Eliadis said.

He said two additional locations for either building or rebuilding cities, as well as a construction start date, have yet to be determined.

Nonetheless, Hernandez will officially begin recruiting this Friday at the Club Creole meeting and hopes to attract Haitian students.

The club’s president, Jessica Leo, will help Hernandez with recruitment and said the opportunity will help Haitian students “have a voice and be heard.”

The Haitian population’s mindset is about “helping people,” said Leo, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences and French and the partnership would allow Haitian students to hear different perspectives on how to help their own country.

“There should not be a gap between (students) and the country,” she said.

Leo said she plans to send invitations to other Haitian organizations and recruit students from multicultural events on campus.

Hernandez said many Haitians travel to the U.S. for an education and do not return to Haiti, which hurts their country’s economy. By getting Haitian students involved in the delegation, they will be able to make an impact.

“It really is a privilege for USF students to be given this opportunity,” he said, “This could literally change the way we do infrastructure in the world and revitalize Third World countries.”