N.Y. campuses to help establish village in Haiti

Members from State University of New York colleges and partners visit the site of a future village in Haiti. (Photo: SUNY)

Ten campuses in New York’s public university system — including Nassau Community College (NCC) — are part of a project to establish a sustainable village and learning community in Haiti.

The State University of New York (SUNY) announced this week that the campuses will work with five not-for-profit organizations under an $800,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

SUNY says the goal is to develop educational, economic and social programs, resources and other needed services on 40 acres of land donated by a NCC professor emeritus. Each campus will bring a specific expertise, such as public administration, public health and performing arts. New York state is home to the largest communities of Haitian decent in the country.

Donated land

The project began with a donation of 40 acres of land in Arcahaie from NCC professor emeritus Carmelle Bellefleur. Arcahaie is about 50 kilometers northwest of Port Au Prince, the capital of Haiti.

“As a nurse and professor of nursing at Nassau Community College, giving back to our communities in the U.S. and in Haiti has been central to my career, and a personal and professional endeavor,” Bellefleur said. “Working in Haiti is an extension of how SUNY collaborates with other educational and cultural institutions to better fulfill its mission of education, research, development and services.”

Project leaders hope to foster local entrepreneurship, community development through education, service learning and any number of other initiatives that bring SUNY educational expertise to local communities in developing countries, said SUNY Board Chair H. Carl McCall.

“The project we’re working on — contrary to a lot of work that’s been done in Haiti the last 10 years — has very little if anything to do with the (2010) earthquake or disaster relief,” said Shannon. “This is really looking at the fundamentals of poverty and the environmental and social problems that are associated with that and underlying that in some degree.”

The planning phase is expected to be complete by February.

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