Siena gives Haitian students a second chance after earthquake
It was one year ago that a major earthquake shook the nation of Haiti and shocked the world. Our Steve Ference spoke with two survivors whose lives were forever changed.
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LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. -- Haiti earthquake survivor Pierre-Louis Joizil said, "It was awful for me to see how people died."
One year ago, the lives of Esperandieu Cenat and Pierre Louis Joizil were literally shaken to the core.
Cenat said, "I see some students dead on the street at the University. I said I didn't know what happened."
For them, the 7.0 Haiti earthquake meant the loss of friends, teachers, even family members. An earthquake that destroyed an already impoverished nation - killing more than 200,000 people. And they, like other survivors, had nowhere to go.
Cenat said, "I was living in the tent for two months."
Their school, devastated. But little did they know, they would be lucky. Siena College Physics Professor Dr. Tom Coohill and his wife had met the students months before, keeping a photograph of them in their kitchen. His wife, also a professor, wanted to help when they saw the news.
Coohill said, "She points to the picture and said, why don't we bring them up here to Siena to go to school?"
With the help of the school's president who arranged scholarships, the end of their local education became an education at Siena College for a full school year. They're studying business - and a very different way of life here in America.
Cenat said, "I do love snow. The snow, the color is very nice. It's too cold for me."
"Skyscrapers," Joizil laughed. "Skyscrapers in New York City - a tall tall building! Wow."
So from Haiti to the Trading Room at Siena College, they say their work is only beginning. The goal - take all they've been given and pay it forward.
Cenat said, "I want to open an orphanage."
Joizil said, "To realize in my countryside, to build 10 classrooms with meeting rooms and computer room."
Dr. Coohill, who's provided a place for them to stay at his own home, said, "They really are like family. I'm sure we'll keep in touch with these guys as long as we live."
Taking the kindness of strangers from Siena College, gaining an education that they'll use to help hundreds of their fellow Haitians in the aftermath of the earthquake that's left thousands to still live in tents...just as they had only months ago.
For more information, contact Siena College.