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9150: South Floridians raised $1 million (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Published Sunday, September 30, 2001

South Floridians raised $1 million

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- The idea of Haiti Tec began to take shape four years ago 
at a dinner table here, at the home of then-U.S. ambassador William Swing. 
Guests around the table included Haitian businessman Jean-Edouard Baker, his 
business colleagues and government officials. One of the guests was David 
Lawrence Jr., then publisher of The Herald and now president of the Early 
Childhood Initiative Foundation based in Miami, who said he was eager to 
help if the Haitian business community could decide what would make the most 
difference in Haiti.

By the time the discussions ended, everyone agreed that what Haiti needed 
most was a technical school that would help keep Haitians in Haiti.

``All of us realized we don't have these technicians in Haiti,'' said Baker, 
who has had to fly technicians from as far away as the Philippines to work 
in his factory. ``We wanted to rebuild the economy.''

Fast forward to 2001: ``What we're trying to do here is in the spirit of 
partnership and peace,'' Lawrence told a room filled with dignitaries during 
the official opening of the school on Sept. 11, a joyous occasion that was 
muted by the terrorist attack on the United States that morning. ``This is 
not about the U.S. handing something to Haiti. Rather, this is a partnership 
with Haiti, an important people and an important country. The people of 
Haiti decided what this school is about.''

Technical education, Lawrence said, is a great strength of the United States 
and should be a strength of Haiti, too.

Lawrence got the Haitians to commit to raise the money to run the school. He 
vowed to get South Florida to raise the $1 million necessary to build it. 
The biggest single chunk came from American Airlines, through its top 
executive here, Peter Dolara.

``Sure enough, we got a lot of people involved,'' said Monsignor Franklyn 
Casale, president of St. Thomas University who got roped into the project by 
Lawrence. ``To make this work, we had to have deep roots, stable partners.''

Casale made 10 trips to Haiti in those four years.

``I got to know an awful lot about the people of Haiti. There is basic 
goodness there. They're looking to have better things happen to them in the 

>From South Florida, Lawrence and Casale knocked on many doors. They went to 
see Emilio Martinez, whose family owns Caribe Homes. Martinez brought in his 
sons and daughter and told them this was a wonderful chance for the family 
to give back some of their own good fortune.

``We slept on it, and we came back saying we wanted to participate,'' said 
Raul Martinez, one of Emilio's four sons who is an executive in the family 
business. ``It meant a lot for this Cuban-American family to give, not only 
to a mostly black country, but to Haiti, which is our next-door neighbor.''

Raul Martinez began to take trips there, to see for himself. He brought 
along his brothers, including Charlie, the president of the Latin Builders 
Association, and Fernando, an executive with Caribe Homes.

``The more I went there, the more I realized how much the needs were,'' Raul 
Martinez said. ``We had nothing to gain because we've never done anything 
there. But it was the right thing to do and for the right people, the people 
who needed it the most.''

Lawrence and Casale didn't stop there. They brought in Broward 
philanthropists Jan and Jim Moran and Wini and Joe Amaturo, Miami Beach 
philanthropist Joe Handleman, Miami restaurateurs Tom Richardson and Gus 
Vidaurreta, and teachers like Darrel Berteaux and Debra Allen, among many 

Another key element was the facilities. The U.S. Southern Command, which has 
participated in Operation Restore Democracy to bring back President 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1994, was leaving Haiti. The building, a cavernous 
warehouse in an industrial park near the Port-au-Prince airport, became 
available and was donated for the school.

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