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9150: South Floridians raised $1 million (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.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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