A UC-wide partnership with the State University of Haiti that supports development in Haiti through education, research and service.
On Jan. 12, 2010, an earthquake measuring 7.0 magnitude on the Richter scale devastated the island nation of Haiti. More than 230,000 people were killed, an additional 300,000 were injured, and 1.5 million were displaced. People and institutions from around the world rushed in to provide immediate relief.
UCLA is still there, working through the UC Haiti Initiative (UCHI), a global partnership between members of the University of California community and the State University of Haiti (EUH) to create educational, research and public service partnerships toward the development of Haiti.
“For 200,000 people to be injured in one city in one minute is enormous,” says Ami Ben-Artzi, a UCLA professor and rheumatologist and founding director of UCHI. “It’s like a nuclear bomb.”
Tu Tran, a UC Berkeley graduate, founded UCHI while still a student, and Anna Alexandroni ’11, managed UCHI’s 10 student campus chapters while attending UCLA. The organizing inspiration was to ask Haitians what they needed in order to rebuild rather than to push plans hatched in California onto them.
The earthquake didn’t just create short-term horrors, Ben-Artzi explained, it also exacerbated Haiti’s chronic problems, making it all the more daunting to help Haiti rebuild. That is why UCLA faculty, students, staff and alumni made a more permanent commitment. For years now, UCHI has coordinated UC resources, such as faculty expertise and student enthusiasm, to build a new generation of leaders in Haiti who can tame longstanding problems and address greater societal needs.
Working as partners with EUH, the UCLA chapter of UCHI provides rheumatology training for local health-care professions, emergency medical care training for more than 300 physicians and nurses, and academic mentorship with Haitian students.
While the UCHI partnership is producing meaningful and lasting impacts in Haiti, its effects could reach even farther when the next cataclysmic disaster strikes.
“These mega-disasters are happening more often,” says Ben-Artzi. “If we can help Haiti today, we can learn how best to respond, and UC can be a leader when humanity faces its worst, most devastating events.
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