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SMC panel analyzes future of Haitian culture

Carolynn Smith | Tuesday, February 16, 2010

 Despite the devastation of the Jan. 12 earthquake, Haiti is a beautiful country with a rich culture, three panelists said Monday.

A discussion, “Windows on the World of Haiti: Politics, Culture and Faith Perspectives,” was held Monday afternoon in Stapleton Lounge at Saint Mary’s. 

The discussion was sponsored by the Justice Education Program, the Office of Civic and Social Engagement and Campus Ministry. 
The panel included Dr. Karen Richman of Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute, Dr. Marie Denise Milord, a native of Haiti and fellow with Notre Dame Haiti Program and Sr. Mary Louise Gude, vice president for Mission at Saint Mary’s College. 
The panel discussed the importance of learning more about understanding Haiti and its needs. The panel discussed why extreme poverty persists in the country and that we need to continue to assist Haiti in their current time of need.
“As an anthropologist I have been involved with Haitians for more than three decades,” Richman said.
Richman examined the history of the country of Haiti dating back to Columbus and looked at how the island came to be inhabited and how it has changed. She said that today, just like in the past, there have been misconceptions about the Haitian people.
“Thinking about Haiti, we have to put aside a lot of our stereotypes,” Richman said.
Milord, a native of Haiti, looked back on the country of her childhood.
“Looking back, we had a beautiful, peaceful country. Back then there was no insecurity. We grew up being proud of being Haitian. And we still are proud of being Haitian but things have changed a lot,” Milord said.
Milord also spoke about health and the spread of diseases in Haiti. She said lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, is widespread in the country.
Mosquitoes spread lymphatic filariasis from person to person.
“We still have a lot of people to treat,” Milord said. “We have partners that are committed to fight diseases.”
Gude said the priests and sisters of Holy Cross have made significant progress in their missions in Haiti, and she said the order has fared well in the aftermath of the earthquake.
“Unlike many communities, Holy Cross only lost one person in the earthquake. I have wonderful memories of Holy Cross priests, the most joyous groups of people I have ever met in my life,” Gude said.
All three women said they are hopeful that all the money going into the country will assist those in need.
“I hope also that this money that is available will use the indicated avenues to reach the people,” Milord said.