Last year’s catastrophic earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands and left more than a million homeless may prove to be the defining moment for a generation of young Haitians, among them Karl Delatour.
Delatour, a freshman at GWSB, his mother’s alma mater, brings an unusual perspective on Haiti’s recovery and future. His mother, Elisabeth Préval, MBA, ’88, is Haiti’s first lady. Delatour’s father Leslie, who died of cancer in 2001, came from a family with a long history of public service. Leslie Delatour served as Haiti’s finance minister in the late 1980s and, later, as governor of the Bank of Haiti.
Conscious of his family legacy, Delatour came to GWSB with a clear mission: to gain the tools he needs to rebuild his country’s business sector. His mother directed him toward politics, “but I wanted to rebuild,” he said.
“Right now, the main thing in Haiti is to instill hope,” added Delatour, a music-loving runner who wears a rosary around his neck.
He’s not alone. Many young Haitians are accepting responsibility for the country’s next chapter. “Even in the nightclubs, they’ll stop the music for a minute and remind us that we have to work for our future,” Delatour said. But the heavy lifting may fall to the small minority who are able to obtain a college education.
There are no simple solutions for Haiti. The earthquake’s devastation was made more acute by generations of poverty. And now, amid the slow rebuilding, a cholera epidemic is spreading through the country.
Delatour acknowledged that foreign aid is necessary for immediate recovery efforts. But he rejects long-term aid as a sustainable development model for the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
“We have to set up enterprises in Haiti and not just in the capital, Port-au-Prince. We have to create jobs,” Delatour said. “It’s a misconception that donating money will be the key.”
Delatour was a year away from high school graduation, focused on college applications, when Jan. 12, 2010, went into the history books. Late that Tuesday night, the 7.0 magnitude quake hit, followed by dozens of powerful aftershocks.
“There are things I wish I’d never seen,” Delatour said. “I am hit with emotion sometimes at the most random moments. But the students here are so good about showing support when I get emotional.”
Although he is physically distant from his homeland, Delatour follows developments in Haiti via radio, the Internet and in phone calls with his mother. He said he chose Washington for his studies because “there was no better place to learn to understand policy, crisis management and disaster management.”
And he takes heart from an unusual place: China.
“My mother always told me that when she was young, they told her to pray for the Chinese living in poverty,” Delatour said. “Now look at China and its tremendous turnaround.”
Posted by gwsb on February 23, 2011 | Filed under: GWSB News.