On Wednesday, October 13, the first Global Affairs Table of the semester took place, this time with a focus on Haiti. The Global Affairs Table was started in the Fall of 2008 as a collaboration between the student organization Gen Ed Now and the Wien International Scholars, with the goal of bringing a global focus to Brandeis by creating truly inclusive dialogue on important and current global issues. This event focused on the issues facing Haiti since the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti 9 months ago, as well as measures being taken by Brandeis students and faculty ranging from relief work to literacy efforts.
Each member of the Brandeis community who spoke had a different, valuable perspective on Haiti to give. Professor Jane Hale directs a Family Literacy Project called Famni Ki Li Ansamn, which is Haitian Creole for “Families Reading Together”. She spoke about the importance of Brandeis as a research institution in relation to Haiti and how students and faculty can contribute. Supreetha Gubbala ’12 spent a month during the summer of 2010 in an emergency medical relief camp in the district of Delmas, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Napoleon Lherisson ’11 is a Haitian American who visited Haiti for the first time this summer and is on the Brandeis Haiti Relief Efforts steering committee. Lastly, Patrick Pascal Sainti-Firmin is a graduate student in the International Health Policy and Management Program. He is a Fulbright scholar, originally from Port-au-Prince, and is a medical doctor in Haiti.
The discussion ranged between many intriguing topics. One topic that I found particularly interesting was the disconnect between NGOs and the government. Haiti has more NGOs than any other country, over 3,000, yet as a whole they have not been very productive in terms of relief efforts and in terms of communicating with the government. One conclusion that the speakers came to is that the possibility of change is there, there just needs to be that final push to mobilize that progress.
The Brandeis Global Affairs table for Haiti was very informative overall, and the combination of knowledgeable Brandeis students and faculty members resulted in a very interesting discussion.