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Xavier to collaborate with Catholic university in Haiti

10th October 2011   ·   0 Comments

Some six years after helping Xavier University of Louisiana recover from the effects of Hur­ricane Katrina, the Middle Eastern country of Qatar is now seeking the help of the nation’s only Black Catholic university in providing a similar helping hand to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

XU President Dr. Norman Fran­cis sits on an ad hoc committee created by the Qatar government that is charged with analyzing proposals for approximately $20 million in grant money that has been earmarked for recovery projects in Haiti. After Katrina, Qatar gave Xavier a $12.5 million grant to build a new pharmacy building and $5 million in scholarships for students affected by the storm.

Francis and a team of Xavier administrators hosted two Haitian bishops and the rector of the Catholic university in Haiti to flesh out ideas for a proposed collaboration between Xavier and the Universite Notre-Dame d’Haiti that could involve exchanges of students and professors as well as the creation of a school of pharmacy and an expanded teacher certification program in Haiti.

Archbishop Guire Poulard of Port-au-Prince, Bishop Pierre-Antoine Paulo of Port-de-Paix and Msgr. Pierre-Andre Pierre, rector of Universite Notre-Dame d’Haiti, spent three days on campus to discuss their needs and what joint initiatives might be most effective.

“This is a great opportunity to partner with Xavier University,” Msgr. Pierre said. “We have common ground. We have common values. It would be the first Catholic university in Haiti partnering with the first university created by St. Katharine Drexel in the United States to serve the Black people here. For us, it is very meaningful.”

Notre-Dame d’Haiti, founded by the Haitian bishops in 1996, currently has about 3,000 students studying at campuses across Haiti. The university already has a medical school already in place in Port-au-Prince, but is now considering adding a pharmacy school. Cur­rently Haiti has only one pharmacy school in a public university.

Also, the bishops emphasized Haiti’s desperate need for trained teachers at the kindergarten through 12th-grade level.

“We can’t build homes or do irrigation projects, but we can help develop the human capital of skilled professionals so that they would be able to go back to Haiti and help develop the next level,” said Francis. “Education is really the key to that. The archbishop said the K-12 system is very important to him. He’s very much concerned about the elementary schools and the high schools, and that’s one of our strengths.”

Xavier is one of only two universities in Louisiana with a school of pharmacy. One possibility under the new collaboration would be to have fourth-year pharmacy students make their six-week residency in a Haitian hospital.

“It would be a great opportunity to go and see not just the poverty but the different degrees of suffering as well as what services are needed as pharmacists,” said Francis. “It would be eye-opening for a young 21-year-old to see that.”

This article was originally published in the October 10, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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