UNIFA, the University of the Aristide Foundation, June 2017 Newsletter

UNIFA needs your help to complete construction of its Diagnostic & Primary Care Center.  Please DONATE today!

As the 2016-17 academic year draws to a close, here is an update of another year of challenges and progress achieved through the hard work of our professors, students, support staff, academic leadership, Board of Administration and you, Friends of UNIFA.

Hurricane Matthew

We opened the year against the backdrop of a category 4 hurricane, Matthew: the worst storm to strike Haiti in more than 50 years, the worst natural disaster since the 2010 earthquake. The number of people killed is estimated at upwards of 1,400. Up to 80% of the homes and buildings in the south and southwest region of the country were damaged. Cities were flooded, bridges and roads washed away, livestock and harvest lost. The landscape forever altered. A region of 2 million people, rich in fruit trees and agricultural production was left unable to produce food. A week after the storm, President Aristide visited some of the hardest hit areas, bringing the Foundation’s contributions of food, clothing and emergency kits. UNIFA stepped in to offer scholarships to affected high school seniors, and in January welcomed 35 students to live in available campus housing for the spring semester. All fees were waived.

UNIFA Offers Two New Disciplines

Last year groundwork was laid for opening the School of Engineering. A dean was appointed to head the department, begin recruitment, and oversee a four month pre-engineering course for prospective students. In October, 59 students enrolled in the four year program. Currently, the two concentrations available are computer science and civil engineering. At the end of this spring semester, an electrical engineer was appointed to design a third program in renewal energy.

Until this year the State University had the only accredited School of Dentistry in Haiti. But with only an average of 25 graduates a year, the number of dentists for a population of 10 million plus, is unacceptable. This year UNIFA recruited 39 students for its first class at the School of Dentistry. These students joined medical and physical therapy students in the first year of a two year common core science curriculum.

Sixth Year Medical Internships

In January 2017 the Medical School reached an important milestone with the placement of 72 sixth year medical students in a yearlong rotating internship program at 3 public hospitals: Hopital Universitaire Mirbalais; Hopital Universitaire La Paix; and Hopital la Providence Gonaives. In May a group of interns returned to campus to report on their experiences. They shared the real life challenges of working in under resourced facilities where poor patients are expected to purchase basic items like bandages and syringes. They explained how they confronted – and got around – patients and family members with religious beliefs that could have impeded their receiving care. They ventured beyond the hospital to meet patients in the remotest areas of the country, seeing firsthand the extent of the health care crisis in Haiti. And they learned how to be creative, like befriending a carpenter who offered them unused wood planks that they learned to use as splints.

Anatomy Lab

Another important milestone for the Medical School was achieved with the opening of the anatomy lab in March. Students are now able to perform dissections as part of their anatomy class.

UNIFA has been asked, and has agreed, to make the lab available for use by medical students enrolled in other universities. The lab sits in the south west corner of campus, adjacent to the location dedicated for the university hospital.


Closer to the main hub of campus, next to the auditorium, sits UNIFA’s library. This Spring Semester, a foundational collection of just over 6,000 books were cataloged, labeled with call numbers and shelved. This first phase of the work was led by a trained librarian who headed up a team of 10 people. The second phase will involve the acquisition of more books and computers to offer students access to online sources.

Special Lectures and Conferences

The Law School welcomed several guest lecturers this year. In December, and then again in May, UNIFA VP for Institutional Development Erin Daly gave lectures on international environmental law to 4th year students. Later in December Brian Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, briefed law students on the cholera case against the United Nations. After explaining the underlying substantive and procedural issues, Brian focused on the strategy deployed in creating a coalition of grassroots organizations, lawyers, law students, scientists, universities, human rights activists, and the media to bring attention and support to the demand for reparation and damages for the victims of this injustice.

In early March, UNIFA human rights lecturer Nicole Philipps hosted USC Hastings Law Professor Christen Lin and 5 Hastings students, in her first year human rights class. The presentation centered on the legal basis for recently signed US executive orders on immigration. The Hastings students led a discussion on the different ways that lawyers and rights training can empower immigrants and citizens against wrongful action by the state. The following week a delegation of Haitian American students from Howard Law School joined first year UNIFA law students in discussions on issues surrounding environmental law.

In April UNIFA commemorated the 214th anniversary of Toussaint Louverture’s death with a university-wide conference on Toussaint’s legacy.

2017 Science Week at UNIFA

Semaine Scientifique (Science Week)

May 15-19, UNIFA hosted its third annual weeklong conference series under the unifying theme: The reality of emergency in Haiti. Invited guest lecturers included the head of the emergency department at a UNIFA partner institute, as well as other noted physicians experienced in emergency care in under-sourced and staffed health care facilities. It was clear, that blame for the record high incidences of medical emergencies in Haiti, are attributable to poverty.

But the week’s 15 lectures were not confined to health care. Topics addressed ranged from the environmental crisis; handicap access; fire safety; ecosystem and land management; energy production; and education.

Rightfully, emphasis was placed on the environment. Currently, Haiti is the third most vulnerable country at risk of climate change damage. One professor of agronomy from the State University explained how better protection of the country’s water catchment areas, mangroves, and vegetal coverage can minimize the impact of natural catastrophes.

While in another presentation, an entire overhaul and rethinking of land management and use in Haiti – particularly in the capital – was advocated. Roots of some aspects of the problem were traced to 3 historical factors: (1) the construction of colonial cites on the coast in order to facility the slave economy; (2) deforestation over enormous tracks of land to build sugar, indigo and cacao plantations; and (3) the forced payment of the 150 million gold franc debt to France through the sale of the country’s precious wood.

Joel Vorbe and entrepreneur Emmanuel Desquiron shared their challenges as individuals living with physical handicaps in a country ill equipped to accommodate them. Beyond access ramps and elevators, both urged students to consider professions where innovation, treatment and new research can help change the quality of lives for all Haitians living with mental or physical disability.

The week was also an opportunity to invite the Haitian Red Cross to organize a blood drive on campus and offer first response training to students.

The conference series closed with a presentation by the Rector of Université Quisqueya. He offered a sweeping look at a broad range of social, economic, and environmental indices in Haiti – all of which point to a country in need of critical thinking to tackle the emergencies afoot. His message to students was to resist a passive or reactive form of emergency planning. To instead engage in a deeper, research based analysis within each student’s chosen area of study.

Red Cross blood donation bus visits UNIFA during Science Week. Students volunteered to donate blood.

Community Service

Medical and nursing students participated in three of the mobile clinics organized at the Foundation this year. In the three events combined, upwards of 750 members of the community were able to consult with a physician and receive free medication.

In January, as part of its outreach program, area high school seniors were invited to an open house and discussion on educational opportunities available at UNIFA, followed by a friendly game of football.

School of Continuing Education

From February to June the School of Education offered a certificate course on cellphone and lap top repair at the Foundation. Classes were taught by instructors from the School of Engineering and are open to youth in the community who are not on a university track and to anyone wanting to learn a useful skill.

Civic Education Program

In March, Erin Daly and former UNIFA visiting instructor Patrick Keenan (University of Illinois College of Law) traveled to Haiti with Michael Maya, Director of the International Bar Association – North America (IBA), to explore the possibilities of implementing an IBA funded Civic Education Program. After this onsite visit and further discussions with Ira Kurzban, the IBA and Partnership for Education, Democracy, and Health in Haiti (PEDHH) have reached agreement to fund the program at UNIFA. The primary goal of this initiative is to increase awareness and understanding of basic principles of law and rule of law among the Haitian population with particular attention to Haiti youth. Radyo and Tele Timoun, (the Foundation’s children’s educational radio and television stations) will facilitate execution of this program.

New UNIFA cafeteria


Five significant construction projects were completed this past academic year:

  • A second level to the School of Law building to accommodate the School of Engineering and Research
  • A second level to the building that temporarily housed the cafeteria and is now being transformed into the library
  • The anatomy lab
  • A new cafeteria
  • The first phase of a second level to the School of Physical Therapy building which will, in the near future, house the School of Dentistry

Looking Ahead …

Recruitment for next year begins in July. The student population will certainly reach the 2000 mark (we end the year at 1400); new professors and deans will join our ranks; we will continue to keep student fees as low as we can; and UNIFA will continue to strive towards inclusion and excellence in higher education in Haiti. And importantly, we will be one step further in attaining our long term goal of founding a university teaching hospital.

Visit www.FriendsofUNIFA.org website 


Honoring Haiti’s Mothers and the late Father Gérard Jean-Juste

UNIFA medical student assists doctor during Mobile Ciinic held on Haiti’s Mother’s Day weekend at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy.

Please join us in honoring Haiti’s mothers! 
In solidarity with Haiti’s Mother’s Day, and in memory of the late Father Gérard Jean-Juste, a Mobile Clinic was held at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy this past weekend. Medical and nursing students from UNIFA, the University of the Aristide Foundation, assisted doctors in performing medical exams for the hundreds of women seeking medical care that day. Father Gérard Jean-Juste, who died eight years ago on May 27, 2009, courageously dedicated his life fighting for human rights and social justice on behalf of Haiti’s poor and refugees. 
Haitian mothers are like all mothers everywhere. They want their children to be healthy, go to school, grow up and have jobs and happy, healthy families of their own. In sum, they want their children to thrive and have dignity and respect in their society. 
These are, after all, human rights as embodied in Haiti’s Constitution, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the United Nations Millennium Declaration (Sept. 2000) that states in its section on Freedom that 
“Men and women have the right to live their lives and raise their children in dignity, free from hunger and from the fear of violence, oppression or injustice.” 
However, the number of doctors in Haiti remains woefully inadequate with less than two doctors per 10,000 habitants. Infant and child mortality remains high and women die in childbirth at a rate of twenty-five times higher than women in the U.S. In most rural areas nurses are the primary health care provider. Only approximately twenty-five dentists are graduated each year throughout the whole country and until UNIFA created the first degree program in physical therapy, there were no higher education Haiti trained physical therapists. The 2010 catastrophic earthquake made evident how critical this field is but to date many hospitals in Haiti don’t have units for physical therapy. 

Hundreds of women participate in Mother’s Day event at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy and access free medical exams and treatment at the Mobile Clinic held that day.

When former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned to Haiti in 2011, he was determined to reopen his university to continue to carry out his vision and commitment to provide a human-rights based model of education as the building block for effective change in Haiti. 
UNIFA, the university of the Aristide Foundation, is unique with its emphasis on human rights, dignity, and inclusiveness as the path to a new and just Haiti. (See UNIFA’s Guiding Principles.) In amplifying her husband’s emphasis on dignity, Mildred Aristide framed the importance of dignity to the future of Haiti as, 
“…resistance is bound to a powerful will to affirm a shared humanity rooted in dignity…This notion of dignity embraces self-determination. People as subject and never object of their history.” 
UNIFA works on all these fronts. To provide a quality, higher education to all qualified students without exclusion, UNIFA’s tuition is much less than other private universities and is able to draw students from throughout Haiti because of its dormitory that currently houses sixty students. UNIFA is a fully accredited Haitian university offering degrees in seven disciplines: Medicine, Law, Nursing, Physical Therapy, Dentistry, Engineering and Continuing Education and currently has 1,300 matriculated students studying at its Tabarre campus in Haiti. Adhering to the State prescribed curriculum and educational requirements, UNIFA supplements course work with additional classes and lectures utilizing its own prominent professors as well as visiting local or foreign professors and experts, including Cuban doctors, who share different approaches and experiences. 
“Students gain their own perspective and state of mind. UNIFA provides excellence in education and a safe space for learning where students can think about issues confronting Haiti and seek solutions that they will ultimately contribute to resolve,” Mrs. Aristide explains. 
UNIFA is a stepping-stone for Haiti, where professionals are trained inside Haiti and students can control their own destiny and forge their own future. Through community service, participation in mobile clinics, gaining practical experience in clinics and hospitals, students build relationships in the professional world before they graduate and get to see the whole range of possible work in the medical field, including research and other specialties. 
Moving UNIFA and a new Haiti forward each year! The first class of UNIFA law students will graduate this September. Sixth-year medical students are doing internships at state and Partners in Health hospitals in Delmas, Mirabalais and Gonaives. Fifth-year medical students are gaining practical experience at the Hospital Bernard Mevs. UNIFA’s nursing students are gaining practical experience in clinics and hospitals throughout the Port-au-Prince area. Physical therapy students are in their third year and UNIFA hopes to offer a masters program in physical therapy in the near future. As of March 2017 the construction of the anatomy lab building was completed and is being used to practice dissection. The cafeteria will be moving into a new modern structure. UNIFA’s engaging Thursday lecture series are very successful and the annual Science Week held in May enjoyed guest lecturers from diverse fields who discussed proactively the realities of emergencies and disasters facing Haiti. 
UNIFA’s Campaign for Dignity. Next UNIFA needs to complete its construction of its Diagnostic & Primary Care Center so students can get the full range of practical experience while also serving families living in this growing region. It is the first component of UNIFA’s teaching hospital. As Dr. Paul Farmer, of Partners in Health, who teaches at UNIFA and serves as the President of our not-for-profit explains, “You can’t teach medical education without a hospital.” 
UNIFA needs your help to get this done. Once the construction of the Diagnostic & Primary Care Center is completed it will need staff, furnishings, medical equipment, and operating costs. UNIFA dental students will need dental chairs and physical therapy students will need beds. Until the teaching hospital is built, patients needing more advanced care or surgery will be received by the Hospital Bernard Mevs, UNIFA’s partner organization. 
Let’s honor Haiti’s mothers together. Please help UNIFA build a new Haiti. Help UNIFA construct its Diagnostic & Primary Care Center, the first phase of its teaching hospital. 

UNIFA’s medical students assist doctors during an earlier Mobile Clinic at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy.

Children at the Mobile Clinic held at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy. In the background UNIFA’s medical and nursing students assist doctors and nurses in examining the hundreds of women seeking medical care during Haiti Mother’s Day weekend event.

UNIFA Academic Year 2015-2016

view of nurses

UNIFA Nursing Students at the 2015-2016 Convocation

The 2015-2016 academic year at UNIFA has seen tremendous growth.   University enrollment at the start of  2015-2016 was approximately 1600 students.  Students admitted in fall 2015 students were drawn from a pool of 1175 applicants, 63% of whom were young women. The highest concentration of applications was in the School of Medicine, followed by the School of Nursing, School of Physical Therapy, and School of Law.   In addition, UNIFA launched a new pre-college prepatory program for students who showed great academic promise, but who were not able to gain admission to the University.  This program is designed to make good on UNIFA’s promise of serving all Haitians, by creating a pathway to a University education for young people whose high school education has not given them a strong enough academic basis to begin University level courses.  A small group of students were also recruited this year to do coursework to prepare them to enter UNIFA’s first class in the new School of Engineering.

The year began with a University wide convocation in October of 2015.  Speakers at the 2015-2016 convocation included Mildred Trouillot Aristide, Member of the Council of Administration, Dr. Dina Vital of the Continuing Education Program, Dr. Dodley Severe, Member of the Rectorate and Faculty Member in the School of Medicine, Dr. Michaele Amédée Gédéon, Dean of the Medical Faculty; Fabrice Fievre, Co-Dean of the School of Law; and Chrystel Woel de Delva was the master of ceremonies.

Speaking to the UNIFA student body Dr. Dodley Severe declared:   “You are here at UNIFA, not only to receive a diploma, but to guarantee a better future for oursociety.”     Dr. Dodley Severe                                                               

The Convocation Keynote speaker was Professor Erin Daly who joined UNIFA this year as the new the Vice President for  Institutional Development.

Here are some excerpts from her from Keynote Address:

…UNIFA is unique not only because of its campus, but in its vision for the future. You have already seen the work that has been done here in the last few years. In the months and years ahead, you will see even more. I promise you. You’ll see the construction of more classes, more laboratories, more spaces to study and work, and additional schools.

But UNIFA is not an island. You are not isolated here, but linked — tied to the communities that you come from, to your surroundings here in Tabarre, and to other educational and professional institutions around the country — to hospitals (where you do your internships), to legal professional organizations, to many different places here and, increasingly, abroad — with professors who come here to teach and to participate in conferences. Moreover, you’re linked through technology to faculty and researchers potentially throughout the world.

And it’s this vision, this ambition, this capacity for growth, to always get better that makes UNIFA such a special place. There’s a momentum here, an energy, a dedication to the art of the possible, that you don’t see that often, either here or in other countries.

This is a place that is unique in another sense as well. It’s the only institution that I know of that is founded on the idea of human dignity. It’s inscribed in the sign that stands just outside. « Si n pa sove diyite n, diyite n ap sove kite n. »   If we don’t safeguard our dignity, we will lose it. It’s an idea that is very simple, but very important. An idea that, for you, is not at all new. …

Professor Erin Daly giving the keynote speech at UNIFA’s convocation

In Haiti, the best reference is in the phrase “tout moun se moun.” But what does this mean? You already know. Each person is a person. That is, each person has value, and each person’s value or worth is the same. The equal worth of each person, everywhere in the world. It’s important, but it’s not just an abstract principle or idea. It’s not just a philosophical principle. In judicial opinions, it’s linked to the full development of the personality, to each person’s ability to realize his or her potential, to become all that one can. And they say, in these legal opinions, that each person has the same right to develop his or her personality as every other person.

So dignity is the essential element that permits us to develop, to grow. It’s not a thing, like a jewel or something we keep inside a safe. We don’t say, “I have my dignity, now that’s done!” Dignity is always a work in progress, as we seek to develop our talents, our intellectual capacity, our spirit; to learn what we are capable of. And to develop just as much as any other person. That’s why we always need to safeguard our dignity — because we don’t ever want to lose the ability to grow.

And that’s also why the idea of human dignity is at the heart of this university. The administration here has confidence not only in who you are, but in what you will become — as students, as professionals, and as participants and contributors to civil society, throughout this wonderful country of yours.

St. Trinity Orchestra opened the ceremony with the National Anthem, then offered students, faculty, administration and guests a selection of classic Haitian music.

St. Trinity Orchestra 2

At the convocation, along side our national flag, we raised the blue and white flag of our University. A dove, wings open, lifted by a hand, ready for flight. This flag symbolizes UNIFA’s commitment, forever open and ready to welcome professors, students, researchers and friends engaged to support the development of this university community where, in unison we declare:

Education without exclusion.

Next Page »