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26758: Hermantin (news) Haitian community rallies to rebuild homes (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Haitian community rallies to rebuild homes
By Will Vash
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 20, 2005
BOYNTON BEACH Paul Doblas, a native Haitian who immigrated to the United
States in the 1960s and now lives in Tamarac, didn't hesitate to give up his
bed and a week's pay in exchange for a cot and 10-hour workdays.
The 65-year-old social service worker will be one of about 170
Haitian-Americans boarding three buses in the wee hours Monday at Boynton Beach
City Hall destined for two areas of the Mississippi Gulf Coast that Hurricane
Katrina hit hardest: Biloxi and Long Beach.
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"It's a good opportunity for me to contribute," Doblas said of his service.
"One week a year to help people in need is nothing at all."
The trip, one of three planned within the next five months, was organized by
Utel, a technology training and Internet cafe in Boynton Beach and Riviera
Beach, and its nonprofit affiliate, the Community Development Foundation.
Quetel Osterval, president of both organizations, said pictures of the
devastation persuaded him that raising money alone wasn't enough. The main goal
is to help rebuild 27 homes in three weeklong trips, with the aid of 500
Haitians from mostly Palm Beach and Broward counties, he said.
The volunteers on this trip, who helped pay the $52,000 cost, include 45
plumbers, 39 carpenters, eight civil engineers and six doctors.
It was easy to solicit volunteers from among South Florida's Haitian community,
Osterval said. More than 750 people expressed interest.
"We came from the the Third World with nothing. We have every opportunity in
this country," Osterval said. "Now, people need help and we're going to be
The group plans to arrive Monday in Mississippi after more than 10 hours. Half
of the group will sleep on cots at a church facility and work in Biloxi and the
others will spend time in Long Beach. They will return home Nov. 28.
City Commissioner Muir C. "Mike" Ferguson said he plans to drive to Mississippi
and spend a day visiting with the volunteers.
"I think our whole area has given the Haitian-American community short shrift,"
Ferguson said. "What they're doing is the essence of good citizenship. They're
contributing a lot and not asking for anything in return."
Hurricane Katrina wiped away neighborhoods in Long Beach, a seaside town of
about 17,000, and Biloxi, a city of more than 50,000.
Rita Claude, 22, who came to the U.S. from Haiti in 2001, said she didn't
hesitate to sign up for the trip after seeing pictures of the destruction.
"This country has helped me," she said. "Now, I need to participate in
Donations to help with the cost of the trip can be made to the Community
Development Foundation, 625 N. Flagler Drive, Ninth Floor, West Palm Beach,
Fla., 33401-4025. All donations are tax deductible.