CSU, Chico News

Priest and Scholar Yves Voltaire to Give a Talk Sept. 9 About Earthquake Relief Efforts in Haiti

Date: 08-30-2010

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs

The devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti resulted in approximately 100,000 deaths and the destruction of a large portion of Port-au-Prince, the capital and largest city in Haiti.

Following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, numerous nations pledged medicine and money to rebuild Port-au-Prince and help the estimated 300,000 injured during the quake, and yet reports persist that the aid is not making a difference or even getting to the victims of the quake.

To help shed light on the relief efforts currently taking place in Haiti, California State University, Chico is bringing Haitian sociologist Yves Voltaire to campus. Voltaire is president of the Public University of Southern Haiti in Les Cayes.

Voltaire will give a talk Thursday, Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in Harlen Adams Theatre titled “Haiti, From Destruction to Rebuilding.” The talk is free and open to the public.

“It is sometimes easy to forget what is happening in other parts of our world, and having Professor Voltaire in Chico to report from Haiti will provide us with essential information as we understand the political, social and culture dynamics of this beleaguered country,” said Joel Zimbelman, dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. “I look forward to meeting him.”

A native Haitian, Voltaire has been a catholic priest serving in Haiti since 1981. He has a PhD in sociology, master’s degrees in biblical theology and international studies and a postgraduate diploma in psychotherapy.

Voltaire is the founding pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Palliant Mount in southern Haiti. He supervises educational programs in 52 primary schools (many of them affected by the earthquake) in rural areas in his diocese.

One of the most important post-earthquake tasks Voltaire hopes to accomplish is the reforming and rebuilding of a Catholic College in the City of Miragone that was destroyed in the earthquake. The college specialized in law and education. Voltaire sees the resurrection of that institution as vital for the future of Haiti’s nascent judiciary and educational systems.

While his duties are many in ministering to the day-to-day needs of parishioners, Voltaire stressed that college-educated Haitians are the key to serving the long-term ecological, economic, social and religious needs of Haitians.

Local Chicoans Jackie Johnson and Larry Catagnola worked with Voltaire while volunteering in Haiti in the late 1990s. They have remained friends.

“We were extremely impressed by Yves’ commitment to the youth of Haiti and the suffering poor,” said Johnson. “He carried the weight of his responsibilities with an ease and grace that seemed hard to comprehend. He will bring a clear, intelligent and hopeful message to his audience here. Haiti’s future depends on continued awareness of not only its needs but its strengths and resources, and Yves has a comprehensive understanding of both.”

Kate McCarthy, faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies, is coordinating Voltaire’s visit to CSU, Chico.

“The Religious Studies Dept is delighted to sponsor this visit. It is so important for us to know about what is happening in Haiti and to understand the future of higher education in that country,” noted McCarthy.

For more information, please contact McCarthy at 898-4485 or kmccarthy@csuchico.edu