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Jean Bildad Michel received his visa to study in the U.S. on the morning of Jan. 12, 2010. Just a few hours later, his country of Haiti was hit by a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake.
Friends and classmates perished in the quake. Michel’s sister was severely injured. He stayed at her side for days waiting for medical help.
Michel did eventually manage to leave Haiti to attend Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee. But Haiti was always in his mind. He kept think of ways to help its residents recover from the disaster.
Over the past year, Michel has done much along those lines. In fact, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission recently awarded him the Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award, which is presented to only a few students in the state.
“I went back to Haiti after being in the U.S. for a while, and I couldn’t even sleep,” said Michel. “There was so much that needed to be done.”
Michel took action and enlisted help from friends, supporters and students in Tennessee. He worked with First Baptist Church of White House and other donors across the country to build a school in Haiti. It started out as just a tent and a teacher and has grown to include several teachers, staff and a building for nearly 400 students.
Kimberley Reed-Bracey was Michel’s sponsor in the U.S. and the force behind getting him to this country. He calls her his “American mom.”
“He’s so humble. He gives all credit to God,” Reed-Bracey said. “He’s one of the only people I have met in my life who doesn’t get caught up in the ego thing.”
Michel works with friends in Haiti on a mission that was started before the earthquake. Through the Prosperity of God Ministries, they provide English classes and other services in Michel’s village. The church recently held a 5K run to raise funds for an upcoming Haitian mission trip. They have teamed with churches across the country to provide a range of support, all focused on empowering Haitians to help themselves.
Michel has also worked on aid efforts with the visa international student association and the collegiate ministry student group at Vol State. They’re sending sewing machines to Haiti to give people an opportunity to earn a living.
This summer, Michel is transferring to Cumberland University (Tennessee) to continue his education and pursue a practical dream.
“I was the first person in my family to attend high school and college,” Michel said. “I want to be a nurse to help my people with all of the issues they have there.”
Copyright ©2014 American Association of Community Colleges