Immediate Release – 9/24/2007
Contact: Brian McElroy
New York, NY (9/24/2007)
It seems that nothing can hold back Fr. Joseph Philippe and his fledgling university in rural Haiti. On September 19th, the University of Fondwa (UNIF) opened its doors for the fall semester, even after a summer of economic and political turmoil that continues to plague the country.
The university was founded in January, 2004 to celebrate Haiti's 200 years of independence. It educates young people from throughout rural Haiti in Agronomy, Veterinary Medicine, and Management, and the students pledge to return to their home communities to work in sustainable development after graduation. In a country that is 80% mountainous, UNIF is the first university in the mountains that caters directly to the needs of the peasantry.
In its first year of operation, President of Haiti Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in a coup d'etat, forcing several university professors to leave the country in the ensuing instability. Yet the university remained open through it all.
Fr. Joseph is known as the founder of Fonkoze, Haiti's largest microcredit bank for the poor. He has turned his attention to UNIF, because "education provides the means to fight poverty in Haiti." He envisions training three professionals for each of Haiti's 565 rural communities, so that they can provide for their own needs rather than depending on the whims of donors.
In 2007, a new group was formed in the United States to support the expansion of the university and fulfill the dream of Fr. Joseph. The UNIF USA Foundation (www.unifusa.org) was registered as a non-profit organization in the State of Florida in February 2007, and Executive Director Brian McElroy was hired to lead the new entity in June.
The university's students come from poor peasant families, and have to be supported through scholarships from individual donors. Because of its rural location, UNIF has to provide its own electricity and water, and import food from the city. There is no electricity in the student dorms, but the students often stay up late studying by candlelight regardless. They exhibit the same passion for transforming rural Haiti as Fr. Joseph, and are getting the training they need to act on their dreams at UNIF.
About UNIF USA Foundation
The UNIF USA Foundation supports the University of Fondwa, Haiti's first and only rural university. It is lead by Executive Director Brian McElroy and an active Board of Directors, as well as numerous volunteers. Brian can be reached at (952) 564-1817 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and the Foundation's address is 203 17th Street, Suite 25, Brooklyn, NY 11215. For more information about UNIF USA, please visit our website at www.unifusa.org. Interviews, further information, and a short film about the project are available upon request.