Haiti Scholarship

Haiti Scholarship


My name is Mark Schaub, I’m with the Padnos International Center at Grand Valley State University, and I want to welcome you on behalf of Olga, who is back in the kitchen right now but so very kindly has opened up her restaurant for us today, and as soon as we get finished here in two minutes, you will be treated to the best gumbo in West Michigan, probably in the Midwest, so Olga? Olga! Let’s applaud Olga. She’s back there. Thank you! Thank you for the food. So it would be easy to say that it’s tragedy and loss that brings us here together, but that’s only part of the story. The real story here today is after one year after the anniversary of the devastating earthquake is the fact that we all come here together in faith. We come here together in faith that, together, we can make a difference, and in hope that together we can make a difference. The partner organization to this event, Rays of Hope for Haiti, has it in its very title, and I want to welcome the folks here, Doug Porritt and Kim Sorrelle from Rays of Hope for Haiti who are also here to make this a success. So I want to welcome all of our partners from Rays of Hope. My whole main purpose here today, besides welcoming you, is to introduce the speaker, and that is Professor Peter Wampler. Peter is an Associate Professor of Geology at GVSU, but he is so much more than his position as a teacher at our university. He’s really the person who moved many of us, including me, to really put in some additional effort on this project because of the stories he brought back to campus working with students, and really just sharing the great need of the people of Haiti. So I’m really excited to introduce to you Peter Wampler. Well thank you, Mark. Both Mark and I kind of were thinking on the same wavelength, and I thought it would good to start out, before I even say anything, with just a short time of silence for the 250,000 or so people that perished in the earthquake. So if you’ll join me just to spend some time in quiet and use it as you see fit, and we’ll just remember those people that lost their lives in the earthquake, and then I’ll share some comments. So just join me in a moment of silence. Okay, thank you. So this is the anniversary of a tragic event, you know something that certainly changed Haiti forever. But, as Mark said, it’s a time, right now, of hope, because we’re announcing something today that I’m really excited about and something that really, I think, can transform Haiti one student at a time. And the dream for this scholarship, it’s sort of been around for Mark and I for a couple years, we’ve been talking about it and sort of discussing it, but I think in reality it’s been in the hearts of the Haitians for a long time, and that’s based on my conversations with them and I know that a lot of Haitians have it in their hearts that they would love to come to a university like Grand Valley and learn, so I know that’s in their hearts. So I hope that this scholarship we’re announcing today will grow and get successful, and we’ll be able to bring lots of students to Grand Valley and they can return to Haiti and transform Haiti into the jewel of the Antilles that it was at one time, and really make people just want to invest in Haiti. So the name of our scholarship that we’re announcing today is called the Empowering Haiti through Education Fund. And I have to thank a lot of people here – I’m not going to be able to do it all – but one person I want to thank, I want to give Mark the thanks back because this would not have been possible without Mark Schaub and the Padnos International Center. I mean, I had sort of a vision for it and a heart for it, but it would not have happened without a lot of help from Mark, so I want to thank him. And then Rays of Hope for Haiti, they gave us a lot of help in trying to figure out how we were going to do this thing, this dream we had, figure out how to make it work in Haiti, so they helped us with some of the logistics and figuring out what schools to look at. And then the Development Office at Grand Valley State University really helped us to kind of make it happen by today, because it’s not always easy to create something like this and they really helped it to move it along, and the Administration of Grand Valley has also been really helpful in that regard. So the sad truth of Haiti is that this earthquake that happened a year ago, it’s one of a long line of tragedies in Haiti – natural and human tragedies. So when I traveled there the first time in 2007, I expected to see a people that were sort of hopeless and defeated. And I have to be honest, that’s not what I saw. I saw a lot of hopeful people who really were striving in a place that I don’t think I could really strive and be successful. So I think, and especially in the faces of the young Haitians I saw, I saw a lot of hope, a lot of sort of ambition, and excitement. And then I returned in 2008 with Andrew Sisson, who’s actually standing back there, and we worked on some water quality issues as part of a Summer Scholars Program here at Grand Valley, and just to share one experience that Andrew and I had, when we were walking through the town that we worked in, there would be young Haitians that would come up and they’d walk with us through town so they could learn English. They would actually walk with us and want to speak English with us, and so they were very motivated, very wanting – desiring – to learn. And I got to know a lot of Haitians pretty well. People like Jean-Roney and Fonya and Obenus – people that I can see – and in their faces I saw hope, I saw a lot of ambition and a lot of accomplishment, really. So it’s for those kind of people that I think we wanted to create this scholarship. And I think the dream for Grand Valley is that this scholarship would be long-term. That we can get it funded and that it will persist for years to come and be able to fund a lot of students to come here. People that haven’t been to Haiti maybe have a hard time imagining, but the places we were at in the mountains, the rural Haitians, they don’t have power, they don’t have water – [yeah come on in, if you’re coming in] – so they typically don’t have power, they don’t have water, so what might seem like a routine thing for us like sitting around reading a book at night is not something that some of the Haitians can actually do. So this scholarship is really geared towards those Haitians that don’t have the means, perhaps, to get to a university ever. So those are the target students we’re looking for is these really outstanding students in Haiti from high schools that we’ve selected as being good feeder schools for this, and students that are ambitious, have good skills, but just don’t have the means to get to a place like Grand Valley. And I’m actually going back to Haiti in March of this year, and I’m going to hopefully film some of these students – prospective students – get some video of them and hear their stories so I can come back and share them so that you can have the same sense of who these students are that I do. And I wanted to leave you with one little piece of Creole, which Olga will probably tell me I’m saying wrong, but there’s a word in Creole, it’s called “kapab.” Basically it means “can” or “can do.” And I think Haiti “kapab”. Haiti can do it. And I think by a scholarship like this, we can help empower the Haitians to basically help solve their own problems. And so it’s my hope that this scholarship we’re creating today will be like a beginning. And there’s a tree in Haiti, it’s a very big tree, it’s called the Mapou tree and it’s the size of a big Beech tree, and they’ve preserved in Haiti, they don’t cut them down. They’re preserved because they think they have spiritual significance. And my hope is that this scholarship will someday, we can look back on it and we’ll see what we’ll see is a Mapou tree, a big thing that has really helped a lot of Haitians and a lot of students to have opportunity and hope, and really that they’ve come to Grand Valley and shared their experiences with Grand Valley, and they can take back to Haiti the experiences from here. So I really appreciate you coming today and taking the time to come here. Ah yes, and I wanted to remind you of the movie that’s on tonight sponsored by Rays of Hope for Haiti. It’s called Strange Things or “Bagay Dw˜l.” Did I say that right? “Bagay Dw˜l.” And it’s at 7 p.m. at the Celebration Cinema South, and I think it’s a ten dollar ticket to get in. But I’m going to go to that. I’ve not seen the movie, I’m very curious to see it. So I’d invite you to definitely continue and go to that event, and if you’re able to contribute to the fund, we would sure appreciate it and we’d love to be able to get to the point where we can fund a student to come here next year. Who knows if that’s possible, but we’d love to get there as soon as possible. So thank you very much for coming today and supporting our effort.

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