Program prepares students from Haiti to help

October 15, 2010 3:26:45 PM PDT
Several Haitian nationals who survived that catastrophic earthquake are now here and learning about disaster relief.

The hope is that they can teach others how to prepare for unforeseeable tragedies.

"Suddenly, the earthquake happened and I said, 'oh, my God,'" Elie Jerome explained.

Jerome was at his office job, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti when last year's earthquake devastated his country.

"There (are) too many people that have been dying because we don't know what to do and how to do," he said.

Jerome is working toward a master's degree in emergency and disaster management at Metropolitan College of New York. The 16-month course began this semester, and includes five other hand-picked Haitian nationals on full scholarships.

"We were looking for people who had a commitment to return to Haiti and in the mitigation of future disasters," said Vinton Thompson, college president of MCNY.

Ingrid St. Fermin was not in Haiti during the earthquake, but some of her relatives lost their homes and a close cousin lost his life.

"The roof fell on his head and he died at the same moment," she said.

The course covers how emergency responders should handle both natural and man-made disasters.

Those involved with this course were happy to share it because they believe in it, and because they want all of us to remember that the story of the earthquake in Haiti is not over.

"I am learning here, so I don't know what will happen later, tomorrow. But I have that feeling, that determination that I will do a good job in Haiti," St. Fermin said.

The college hopes to help place the graduates in key positions in Haiti.