Campus News

UK Continues Haiti Commitment in 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 12, 2011) — In the horrific aftermath of Haiti's earthquake on this date last year, the University of Kentucky came together through service, education and financial support.

But the work is far from done, and UK is continuing its involvement with Haiti's cleanup and reorganization efforts.


Big Blue Raises the Bar for Haitian Hoops

Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari asked Kentuckians to come together and help the hundreds of thousands affected in the earthquake's aftermath, and the Commonwealth did more than just answer.

"The Big Blue Nation will be forever tied to the people of Haiti through our combined efforts in the historic Hoops for Haiti telethon and fundraiser that resulted in over $1.5 million being raised for earthquake relief," Calipari said. "We continue to pray for and show our support of that nation in hopes that Haiti can continue its recovery and rise from the rubble. Not a day goes by that I don't think about the emotional outpouring our fans, our university and our program gave in the days and weeks after that horrible tragedy."

A Haitian Education

When a January 2010 forum on the Haiti catastrophe drew over 150 student participants, UK history professor Jeremy Popkin decided to create a class and three-part lecture series last fall, titled, "Haiti in the Modern World." 

Popkin hoped that both the class and the corresponding programming were useful for students interested in traveling to Haiti to help, but also in response to the increasing Haitian population moving to the U.S. "I am continually surprised at the amount of American involvement in Haiti, whether it's through church groups or medical missions," said Popkin. "Many people go down there in a state of total ignorance."

Popkin's interest in Haitian history also resulted in a new book, "You Are All Free: The Haitian Revolution and the Abolition of Slavery," released in September 2010 from Cambridge University Press and recently reviewed by the Wall Street Journal

In November, the renowned French Revolution scholar, with the help of the UK Council of Endowed Professors, also organized a two-hour discussion with Russell Porter, Deputy Coordinator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Haiti Task Team.

The forum, titled, "The United States, the University of Kentucky, and the Haitian Crisis," was designed to "make faculty and students at UK more aware of what we have to contribute to the monumental project of helping Haitians recover from the earthquake," explained Popkin. "Many of us gave money, but, as academic specialists across the many disciplines we have here, we have other ways to contribute--and our efforts can contribute to our own educational mission as well as to assistance to Haiti."

Haitian Harmony

Alltech president Pearse Lyons was looking for a way to raise world awareness of Haiti’s economic plight and its challenges -- challenges that remain long after the rubble from the earthquake is cleared away. Lyons envisioned a choir of Haitian school children similar to The African Children’s Choir, allowing the sounds of Haiti to be heard by this international audience to raise awareness of the Haitian story.

To make his vision a reality, Lyons teamed up with Everett McCorvey at UK Opera Theatre to found the kid’s choir Haitian Harmony. UK graduate students Eric Brown and Manuel Castillo selected and trained the children.

Since its founding, the choir has performed at many venues, including the opening ceremonies of the World Equestrian Games and a benefit concert with Grammy Award winners, The Chieftains, at the Singletary Center for the Arts.

For more information on Haitian Harmony, check out Alltech's video on the project at

Net-Zero Home and School Design

Under the direction of Gregory Luhan, associate dean for research at UK College of Design, students have developed housing and school prototypes that could be used in Haiti. This is a high-performance design build that informs new construction and adaptive reuse of net-zero living, which offers directions for lifestyle change.

This spring semester Luhan’s class of design and engineering students will leverage the fall semester’s research and use IPD (integrated project delivery) and BIM (building information modeling) software to collaboratively design and analyze a variety of approaches through digital simulations and computational fluid dynamics to prove the possibility of achieving net-zero. 

Sustainable Housing Relief

Under the direction of UK School of Interior Design faculty Joe Rey-Barreau and Terry Rothgeb, UKID STUDENTS for Community ENGAGEMENT, Undergraduate RESEARCH, and Design INNOVATION (SERI) was presented with the challenge of designing housing units for housing relief in areas throughout the world that have experienced natural disasters.

Research objectives included the design of structures that could be prefabricated; would use more than 95 percent recycled materials; and could be shipped in flat packs for assembly at the location where they were needed. The units also are designed to withstand local environmental conditions, and the conditions resulting from earthquakes, hurricanes and flooding.

As a result of the research, the upper level interior design students chose to design the housing units using a material whose trade name is Homasote, an environmentally intelligent building and industrial packaging material made of 98 percent post-consumer recycled paper.

The project is also intended to create awareness about the sustainable nature of Homasote as a building material. The student group will soon be contacting disaster relief agencies around the world to find partners in the building and shipment of these environmentally-friendly and affordable housing units.

UK Student Lends a Hand Back Home

UK engineering graduate student Chrispin Gabriel first heard about the earthquake on CNN after he returned from his annual trip back home to Haiti.

Gabriel has gone back to Haiti each year during the Christmas holidays to help at Good Shepherd Orphanage in Carrefour, a place near the epicenter of the earthquake that the UK student used to call home.

A Kentucky family who met Gabriel at Good Shepherd, brought him to the U.S. in 2004 to live with them and attend Northern Kentucky University. Since 2004, Gabriel has returned to Good Shepherd, bringing  students from Northern Kentucky and UK twice to help on construction projects.

Gabriel returned to Haiti with two men from Hebron immediately following the earthquake.

Fortunately, no one had died at Good Shepherd, but the buildings were unsafe, so Gabriel obtained two large tents from the United Nations to shelter the 75 children. “We put the tents together, gave them a lot of safety training and made sure they had the basic necessities to survive,” he recently told International Educator magazine.

Gabriel returned with two engineers over spring break and led a third group of volunteers down in August as well. “The kids are still outside,” he said. “Most of the buildings need to be torn down or repaired extensively.”

After completing his civil engineering degree in May at UK, with the help of UK’s Haitian Student Assistance Scholarship, Gabriel is now pursing his master's in engineering and plans to return Haiti again this year.

For more information on UK's involvement in Haiti, please contact Whitney Hale at (859) 257-1754 ext. 229 or or Erin Holaday Ziegler at (859) 257-1754 ext. 252 or