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Archbishop wins prize for service in Latin America

Tori Roeck | Monday, December 5, 2011

Louis Kébreau, Archbishop of Cap-Haitien, once said, “When you build a school, you close a prison.”

Because of Kébreau’s commitment to promoting education in Haiti, particularly in the aftermath of the 2009 earthquake, he will be honored with the Notre Dame Prize for Distinguished Public Service in Latin America on Thursday in Haiti, according to a University press release.

“[Kébreau] is somebody who has dedicated his life to working with the people of Haiti and particularly has done a lot of work on education,” said Stephen Reifenberg, executive director of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, which sponsors the prize. “It’s this commitment to education and social justice that has really distinguished him.”

Reifenberg said the award, begun in 2000 and co-sponsored by Coca-Cola, recognizes visionary leaders who do important work to improve democracy and human development in Latin America.

The prize comes with a $15,000 cash award, along with a matching donation to a charity of the recipient’s choice, Reifenberg said.

Kébreau chose to donate to Action et Solidarité contre la Pauvreté (Action and Solidarity against Poverty, or ASAP), an organization that provides scholarships to Haitian university students.

Kébreau was chosen for the honor because he has been a voice for the Haitian people, Reifenberg said.

“He is somebody who has really worked hard to connect the local and the national and the international,” he said. “He’s done a great deal to raise the issues of people at the local levels … to really bring the awareness of what’s happening at the local level to the level of the nation in Haiti, but even more to the international community.”

Reifenberg said Kébreau has most recently advocated globally for measures to combat a cholera epidemic in Haiti.

In the realm of education, Kébreau has been integral in building and rebuilding schools for impoverished Haitian children, especially after the devastating 2009 earthquake, Reifenberg said.

Reifenberg said choosing Kébreau to receive the prize honors not only his leadership, but also the strength of the Haitian people.

“There is an interest in recognizing the incredible solidarity of the Haitian people,” Reifenberg said, “and what they’ve endured since the earthquake and in the midst of incredible hardship, the real leadership that many people have shown, and to a certain degree being able to honor one person is actually honoring Haitians, as well.”

Reifenberg said this year’s award is especially relevant to Notre Dame’s longstanding engagement with Haiti.

“This is a particularly special recognition for Notre Dame, given Notre Dame’s long tradition of commitment to Haiti,” Reifenberg said. “And I think it is a commitment that is only growing as the programs the University has in health, education, infrastructure and the study of language and cultures continue to grow. I think that while a specific individual is being recognized, it is part of a broader commitment.”

According to the Kellogg Institute’s website, former recipients of the prize include President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, human rights activist Helen Mack Chang and Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga.