U professors to volunteer in Haiti

Three architecture professors hope to improve conditions in refugee camps.

by Alex Holmquist

Three University of Minnesota architecture professors will travel to Haiti on Friday to assess living conditions in refugee camps and consult on how to help rebuild communities displaced by the January earthquake. The number of Haitian earthquake victims who are seeking shelter within refugee camps is growing, and so is the need for improvements within the camps. Refugees will soon face heavy rains, wind, mudslides and floods during HaitiâÄôs rainy season, and diseases like malaria, cholera and typhoid are spreading. Professors Leslie Van Duzer, Ozayr Saloojee and John Comazzi will spend five days observing conditions in the camps managed by the American Refugee Committee, which is based in Minneapolis. The professors will try to figure out ways to make improvements within the camps. âÄúThe people of Haiti have experienced unthinkable trauma, seeing their homes and communities destroyed and living in makeshift camps, a state that poses a range of challenges,âÄù Van Duzer said in a press release. âÄúOur goal will be to provide workable solutions to help individuals and communities address current camp and shelter challenges and rebuild in a safe and effective manner.âÄù ARC manages two refugee camps in Haiti and has provided shelter for about 700 families. ARC is currently working to provide transitional shelter for thousands of Haitian refugees, but a rise in the number of refugees needing their services means they wonâÄôt be able to provide shelter for everyone. âÄúA lot of the problems in this country relate to housing, shelter, living environments and community space,âÄù said ARC President and CEO Daniel Wordsworth. Terraine DâÄôAcra is a camp in Port-au-Prince managed by ARC. Within the camp, ARC provides health care, psychological services and âÄúchild-friendly spaces,âÄù with temporary classrooms staffed by Haitian teachers who live in the camp. ARC also works with other organizations to provide things like water and sanitation for the campâÄôs residents. The number of people using the campâÄôs services has grown from 10,000 to roughly 25,000 in the past month, Wordsworth said. ARC also manages Camp Hope in Fond Parisien, which houses roughly 700 residents, including those who have been critically injured. The University professors will assess living conditions within the camps and give ARC feedback about how the camps can be improved. Wordsworth said he is excited to work with the professors and looks forward to receiving their guidance. âÄúArchitects are, in my view, very special people and see the world in a special way,âÄù Wordsworth said. âÄúI feel very confident that theyâÄôll be able to add great value to what weâÄôre doing and make what weâÄôre doing better and more livable for the people that weâÄôre working with,âÄù Wordsworth said. He also said he hopes to form a strong relationship with the University in the future. âÄúWhile the first visit is for five days, we hope this will be the beginning of a great relationship with the architecture school,âÄù Wordsworth said.