New York, NY. The 100 Global Advisors to the International University Center Haiti (“Uni Haiti”) were honored last week at a champagne reception hosted by The Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation on behalf of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation. Advisors travelled in from Indiana, Syracuse and even Port-au-Prince to attend. The Global Advisers come from 24 different nations.
Don Rubin of The Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, addressed those assembled on the difficulties and challenges faced in helping Haiti.
Jim Luce, founder of the Haiti project, spoke to those assembled about Uni Haiti’s concept, intuitional partners, and next steps. Ground breaking is set for Labor Day weekend, with the Opening scheduled for January 12, 20112 – the second anniversary of the terrible earthquake that destroyed Haiti in 2010. The International University Center Haiti is beginning in LÃ©ogÃ¢ne, the epicenter for the quake where 90% of the city was leveled.
Yale University School of Music’s classical guitar professor and member of the Swiss Global Artistic Foundation Simon Powis performed a very beautiful song dedicated to the people – especially the children – of Haiti. Simon appeared at the invitation of J. Luce Foundation advisor Michael Murdoch, who also heads the board of the American Friends of the Swiss Global Artistic Foundation.
Videos from last year’s event with Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) that began this Herculean effort in Haiti just weeks after the disaster were viewed, including warm greetings from an eclectic mix including J. Alexander of America’s Next Top Model, Hon. Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, and Sudanese rap star and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal. OIWW is a special project of the J. Luce Foundation.
Jim Luce spoke about the initial concept for Uni Center. Jim, who had been in Haiti with Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) since Christmas 1999, worked closely with orphaned children in Gonaives after Hurricane Jeanne in 2004 – the same year the Tsunami ravaged Indonesia and Sri Lanka where OIWW also had relief efforts. Jim stated that however hard conditions were after the Tsunami of 2004, they did not begin to compare to Haiti in general even before the earthquake last year.
Global Adviser Dr. Kazuko Tatsumura Hillyer works with children in Haiti as well as Tibet and India. On her most recent trip to Haiti she was attacked by a feral dog. Undeterred, she pledged to build a holistic health center on the site of the attack.
Donald Rubin of the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation and Gary and Kay Walla of the foundation Hearts and Hope for Haiti spoke, as did Haitian physician Vladimyr Roseau and Haitian-American Evens Anozine, board members of the International University Center Haiti.
Jim told those assembled:
After the Haiti earthquake, I challenged myself to do more – but what? I felt orphan care alone was not enough. Like distributing water in a refugee camp, it was important, but simply not enough. Perhaps because I was raised by professors in a small college town in Ohio, that’s how the idea of a university complex came about.
Maybe because Cheddi Jagan, one of my early mentors and former president of Guyana, had founded the University of the West Indies on a small scale and it had grown to become the preeminent English language university system in the Caribbean.
Or perhaps because one of my forbearers, Thomas Dudley, co-founded Harvard so many years ago and the story is so engrained in my mind that a university model suggested itself.
The advanced concept of Uni Haiti is to be a campus that serves for both domestic and international universities as a foothold, a beachhead, and classrooms – as well as an incubator for other non-profit organizations.
Jim announced the concept of “Uni Center Haiti” by e-mail to 2,000 friends and acquaintances on Jan. 12, 2011 – the first anniversary of earthquake. One hundred of them rallied to the project as Global Advisors. He then made plans to use his portion of his father’s estate to create The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation to support it, similarly to the way in which his portion of his mother’s estate launched Orphans International Worldwide in 2001.
Institutional partners of Uni Center in LÃ©ogÃ¢ne include the Ecole de la RÃ©demption (story 1, 2) and the HÃ´pital Ste. Croix. Additional institutional partners will have facilities on the campus spread out across various properties in downtown LÃ©ogÃ¢ne. These include programs for orphan care (OIWW Haiti), holistic health, mental health, long distance learning, and vocational training.
The mission of Uni Haiti includes assisting other non-governmental institutions help build the New Haiti in accordance with its Needs Assessment Survey underway in cooperation with the mayors of LÃ©ogÃ¢ne and Petite-GoÃ¢ve, spearheaded by Global Advisor Annette Swierzbinski Jim emphasized, “It’s not just what rich people in the U.S. and Europe want to build for Haiti, but what Haitians actually need.” The needs assessment survey assists Uni Haiti in measuring those needs.
Jim explained how the situation on the ground in Haiti continues to be in flux. Having just returned from Trip #25 to Haiti, Jim explained to the audience:
We had planned to open as a MASH unit – a college bed-and-breakfast – with tents donated from China with bunk beds and ceiling fans. However, between trip #24 and #25 – in only the last ten weeks – a new U.S.-standard hotel has risen phoenix-like directly across the street from our main property. It has air-conditioned rooms for only $65 a night. Our “college inn” no longer makes sense when we can use their facility. We need to build what is needed, not just what we want.
Uni Haiti is now operating on five pieces of property in LÃ©ogÃ¢ne proper and Gressier, and is in discussion concerning land in Petite-GoÃ¢ve. Five building plans have already been chosen and partially funded – the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Global Dialogues Committee’s Haiti Housing Collaborative (HHC) and the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation’s earthquake-proof building designed by Stephen Forneris, AIA, of Perkins Eastman (link).
Jim outlined the critical next steps for the International University Center Haiti:
Launch website. Uni Haiti’s website is being finished in India this month and will include property plans for each lot as well as the bios of the Global Advisers.
Raise funds. The first year budget has been set at $250,000 and the project is conceived as a self-sustaining model believed to be necessary for its ability to institutionalize.
Raise awareness. Working with PR professionals, as well as marketing and branding companies to move forward, Uni Haiti plans to become highly visible.
Partner & cooperate. Jim has pledged to work with anyone of good will and integrity to build the New Haiti.
Remain Transparent. Uni Haiti has worked with accountants since inception to capture all transactions and make financial reports available on-line as filed with the IRS.
Develop Tourism. The Global Advisers are committed to travel to – as well as bring their own friends and family – to Haiti to stimulate the Haitian economy.
“Uni Haiti will not be achieved overnight. This is a twenty-year commitment on my part. We need all the help we can get. Haiti needs all the help it can get,” Jim explained. He ended by saying, “Thanks to you, we are building the nexus of higher education and support in post-earthquake Haiti!
Audio visual presentations included the security camera footage of the collapse of the Presidential Palace during the earthquake from the film Thirty-Five Long Seconds: Haiti’s Deadly Earthquake by our friend Mario L. Delatour (Vimeo).
Gemologist and luxury goods specialist John Lee, vice president of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation and former Global Officer of Orphans International Worldwide who was stationed in Sri Lanka for three years after the Tsunami overseeing orphan care, volunteered to coordinate the successful event.
The current exhibition on the 8th Floor Gallery of The Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation located at 17 West 17th Street is entitled “Queloides: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art,” and speaks to the persistence of racism and racial discrimination in contemporary Cuba and elsewhere in the world. Despite the social transformations implemented by the Cuban revolutionary government since the early 1960s, racism continues to be a deep wound in Cuban society. Interestingly, many Afro-Cubans have roots back to Haiti. The Gallery, located at 17 West 17th Street, is open by appointment.
Global Advisors to the International University Center Haiti include professionals in the fields of academics, architecture, art, business management, communications, design, development, education, engineering, film, fund management, fundraising, investment banking, law, media, medicine, microfinance, music, non-profit management, philanthropy, psychiatry, psychotherapy, public health, public relations, public service (Parliament and Congress), social work, and the theater.
As a Global Adviser to Uni Haiti, I feel a great sense of responsibility to do all that I can in every way that I can to help my Haitian brothers and sisters improve their lives using education as the catalyst. I’m very proud to be a part of this initiative.
Catering for the exclusive reception was provided by VVS Catering and Pour Moi through global advisors Vlada von Shats and Sheena Jones. Cynthia Artin, another global advisor, provided flower arrangements on the theme Rebirth. The event was coordinated by John Lee, Vice President of the J. Luce Foundation.
Freda L. Thomas, MBA is a New York State Certified Business Advisor with several years of achievement in business and economic development, serving NGO’s and micro enterprises. Freda possesses 15+ years of experience developing, directing, and implementing plans that improve and expand an organization’s market position and financial profitability. She recently left her position at the Small Business Development Center of New York to start her own consulting firm. For ten years she ran a successful greeting card distributorship with office and warehouse space at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. And while owning that company, she was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the York College Small Business Development Center. Freda holds an MBA from Baruch College in New York City with a specialization in International Business. She wrote The Daily Kos story entitles “Memories of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Fighting Social Injustice and Inequality.”
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Originally published in The Daily Kos, June 21, 2011.