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Haitian Creole courses may aid recovery

A screen shot of Duke's Web site advertises its "Haitian Creole for the Haitian Recovery" course.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: The needs that Haiti and its people are going to have as that country tries to rebuild are almost beyond imagining. Most immediately it's doctors and humanitarian assistance. But some American colleges and universities are thinking a little bit longer term, as Marketplace's John Dimsdale explains.


JOHN DIMSDALE: Deborah Jenson teaches Haiti's Creole language at Duke University. And within days after the earthquake, she developed a crash course in cultural skills that will be needed by Duke students and professors in health, architecture, and engineering who are heading to Haiti.

DEBORAH JENSON: To make them linguistically prepared and culturally sensitized. We want to help people to learn about very concrete details, like how to get a cell phone and how to communicate with Haitian contacts.

Thirty-two people are enrolled with more e-mails arriving each day. Professor Jenson thinks her course will be offered beyond this semester, given the long-term need to rebuild Haiti.

BILL ROSE: All of our students know, for example, about water quality. They know about sanitation. They know about first aid.

At Michigan Tech, Professor Bill Rose teaches future Peace Corps volunteers how to be first responders in natural disasters. He says those skills didn't used to be a high priority. But that's changed as more developing countries cope with floods, landslides, and active volcanoes.

Meanwhile, 430 members of the American Association of State Universities and Colleges want to teach Haitians the society-building skills they'll need to break the cycle of poverty.

Don Betz is the president of Northeastern State University in Oklahoma.

DON BETZ: We are beginning to rally around the notion that a strong collaborative effort will make it possible for us to have a continuing impact on the fortunes of the people of Haiti as opposed to the very significant immediate relief and rescue impact.

Betz says state colleges and universities want to partner with Haitian schools to get rebuilding efforts underway as soon as possible.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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