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7007: Sun-Sentinel: Miami lawyer helping Catholic Law School in Jérémie (fwd)
From: Max Blanchet <email@example.com>
Miami lawyer works to bring democracy to Haiti
By KATIA BORDY, Associated Press
Web-posted: 11:46 a.m. Feb. 11, 2001
MIAMI -- Paul Novack has done his best to fight corruption, poverty and
natural disasters in Haiti.
Now, the Miami Beach lawyer wants to have a long-term impact on the
struggling country. He's leading an effort in South Florida to help
encourage the development of law schools in Haiti and prepare young Haitians
to build a democracy.
"The creation of a new generation of lawyers is probably the best
investment we can make," said Novack, also the mayor of Surfside, a small
town north of Miami Beach. "They will create democratic institutions and a
working legal system."
At the Catholic Superior School of Law in Jeremie, Haiti, 80 students
started law classes last month. The school charges no tuition but requires
that all graduating students engage in public service during the four-year
program and after graduating.
While in school, students are required to complete some form of
community service. Once they graduate, they must complete a two-year
apprenticeship in a law firm in Haiti.
The emphasis on public service is designed to instill a sense that they
must give something back to their country.
The law school hopes to fill a void "created by a near total absence of
legal professions in the region while preparing a new generation of
attorneys who will defend the law and render justice with honesty," said
Rev. Jomanas Eustache, chancellor of law school.
The school recruits students from 18 communities that comprise the
Province of Grand Anse in northwest Haiti. The school emphasizes diversity,
is open to students of all faiths and beliefs, and focuses on ethics and
issues of justice, as well as traditional academics.
Novack is urging law firms in Miami and elsewhere to donate books,
videotapes, computers, hardware and software to Haiti's library system to
give students a better chance of earning their degree. Novack already has
donated 15 legal courses on videotape.
The program also will send volunteers to the law school to teach
classes and seminars for both faculty and students. Novack and longtime
friend and lawyer Edward Petkevis will be among the first group scheduled to
go in March.
"They have nothing over there," said Petkevis. "Anything we can get
will be highly valuable."
Louis Joseph, Charge d'Affaire Ad Interim at the Haitian Embassy in
Washington, said the project would allow young people to get an education
they could otherwise not afford.
"The youth in Haiti is very, very dynamic and they would like to see
changes in the country," Joseph said. "We have to find a means to help these
young people, to give them jobs and opportunities."
Marc Roger, of the Florida International Volunteer Corps, applauded
Novack's efforts. The corps is a nonprofit organization, based in
Tallahassee, providing help to Haitians in disaster management, cancer
screening, small business development and cultural historical projects.
"Any area of education to help Haiti is a big plus," he said.
"Training, any form of skills, improvement is definitely needed."
Novack, 42, served as an international elections observer when Haiti
had its first democratic presidential election in nearly 200 years in 1990.
"It was a fascinating experience," he said. "It was only the first step
toward establishing a working democracy."
Novack watched political corruption drag Haiti back to poverty shortly
after that but did not give up hope for change. He has conducted seminars
for scores of Haitian mayors in Florida and Haiti on how to run an open,
accountable and productive local government.
About 600 miles southeast of Miami in the Caribbean, Haiti is known as
one of the poorest countries on earth. It is on the west side of the island
of Hispaniola, with the Dominican Republic in the east. Eighty percent of
the 8 million residents live in poverty with half the work force jobless.
At least 60 percent of the Haitian population is illiterate, according
to the White Book of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who started serving a
second term last week.
The resources of the library system in Haiti are nearly as poor as the
country itself. The entire education system suffers from a tremendous lack
of money and support.
"When you want to help people, you look for who needs you most," Novack
said. "We cannot turn our backs on what is going on there."
The law school project will allow young Haitians to get an education
they otherwise could not afford and use that knowledge to help their people,
their country, their future, Novack said.
"The instability in Haiti has ramifications in the U.S. in general and
Florida in particular, from economic to the environment to immigration," he
said. "Progress in Haiti would serve everyone's best interests."