Haitian Devastation Impacts Campus

by Dennis Walikainen, senior editor

The recent earthquake in Haiti has been felt here at Michigan Tech.

At least two students and one faculty member have ties to Haiti, and they have received mixed news: some good, much bad, some the worst.

Roxane Gay, a PhD candidate in the humanities department who has lived in Port au Prince, learned that her parents left Haiti last Sunday, missing the earthquake by just a couple of days. Most of her family survived, but she has lost at least one great uncle.

“His wife is missing,” Gay said. “And the building in which my parents live is flattened. So is the National Palace. In fact most of Port au Prince is destroyed.”

Gay’s father, Michael, is in the construction business and has just completed the Digicell Center, which is one of the few structures still standing. He is rushing back to Haiti this Friday to help move debris with his construction equipment.

The problems in Haiti are myriad, according to Gay: there are no building codes and no real infrastructure: no sewage system, plumbing, or trash removal, “and the roads are not good.”

Thus, rebuilding efforts will be even more complicated. “This is what poverty does,” she says.

“Where do you put the people?” Gay asks. “And the debris? The country is the size of Maryland. They need water, food and hospital care. The good news is, although the control tower is down, the airport can still receive planes.”

Gay gets her news from Haiti via texting and satellite phones. She also gets information via the Facebook page of fellow Michigan Tech Haitian Fredline Ilorme, a graduate student in the civil and environmental engineering department.

Ilorme reports that most of her family is also well, but she is still waiting to hear from some additional family members and friends. Kette Thomas, assistant professor of diverse literature in humanities, also has Haitian ties.

Gay is not hopeful for the future. “There’s not enough money in the world to fix what’s broken,” she says.

However, if people do want to help, she suggests the well-established organizations such as the International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and Yéle Haiti, which was established by musician Wyclef Jean and seeks to achieve long-term progress in the country.

“Haitians are resilient people,” Gay says. “My dad is a proud Haitian.”

That’s why Michael Gay is rushing back to help his fellow islanders and others are coming to their aid. There’s much work to be done.

Published in Tech Today


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