Earthquake Survivors From Haiti Graduate

L to R: Dr. Neil Besner, Vice-President (Research, Recruitment and International) and Acting Provost and Vice-President (Academic ); Dr. Sylvie Albert, Dean of Faculty of Business and Economics; Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, President and Vice-Chancellor; Samy Archille; Jaquet Duval; Héléna Vickaina Lafleur; Jean Widny Pervil; Dr. Glenn Moulaison, Dean of Faculty of Arts

WINNIPEG, MB – Four of five students who arrived at The University of Winnipeg in September 2010 following a devastating earthquake in Haiti have now graduated, in a special Convocation ceremony held on February 1, 2013.

Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, President and Vice-Chancellor and Bob Silver, Chancellor presented Jaquet Duval, Jean Widny Pervil, and Samy Archille with 3-year Bachelor of Business Administration degrees. Héléna Vickaina Lafleur received a 3-year Bachelor of Arts (Politics) degree. The fifth student, Vanessa Laurent, continues her studies at UWinnipeg and is expected to graduate in the coming months.

On January 12, 2010, a catastrophic earthquake shook Haiti, killings tens of thousands of people and destroying the country’s educational infrastructure. When their schools collapsed, the five students were buried under rubble until rescue workers arrived. Many of their classmates and professors did not survive.

The Haitian Students Task Force was formed by Axworthy shortly after the earthquake, with UWinnipeg resolving to cover significant costs to allow the five students, all in their twenties, to continue their studies including airfare, tuition, residence fees, meal plans and counselling.

“These are the leaders who will help rebuild Haiti,” said Axworthy. “Our goal has been to strengthen the resiliency in these five young adults while providing a safe place to live and study. We are proud of their success and know that together we have created long term bonds of respect and friendship.”

Meet the graduating students:

Jean Widny Pervil

Jean Widny Pervil – Bachelor of Business Administration

Widny’s dream is to continue with his education and one day, become a university professor in Haiti, so he can share his knowledge with the next generation. The 27 year-old describes studying at The University of Winnipeg as “a giant step in my life. It is an honour to receive a Canadian degree especially at UWinnipeg as one of the Top 10 universities in Canada. The love and attention we have been given from every single person in the province has been so much help. I will always be grateful.”

Widney’s favourite Canadian experience: “Playing in the snow! And I love watching hockey, I am in love with the game. I did not know about hockey before coming here. We had good adventures going to the Whiteshell and on amazing rides at Red River Exhibition and we had a very good time at Festival du Voyageur.”

Samy Archille

Samy Archille – Bachelor of Business Administration

Samy says his university education has allowed him to understand himself and other people better. “My future was so frightening to me, we witnessed so many people who died and were lost. I am short of words to express my gratitude for the chance to experience so many friendly people who want to help newcomers. It really surprised me how many people are here from so many backgrounds and cultures.” Samy, who is 28 years old, hopes to help Haiti with reconstruction efforts by working in some capacity with people in the field.

Samy’s Canadian memory: “Snow was unimaginable for us. Yes it is cold, but snow is also really beautiful.” 

Héléna Vickaina Lafleur – Bachelor of Arts (Politics)

Héléna has many goals and is already working to achieve them. As a co-founder of her Haiti school alumni association, Association of the Alumnae of Collége Marie-Anne, she is participating in the reconstruction of her former school which was heavily damaged by the earthquake. “We are working to provide the school with a library and books needed for classes, a laboratory for physics and chemistry as well as a computer lab. It is a long-term project and I am working hard with the other members in order to achieve this goal.”

Héléna is also hoping to work with non-governmental organizations rebuilding Haiti, and one day create her own, which will fight violence against women and promote women’s right to education.

“I am grateful to The University of Winnipeg for the support and continuous help towards this degree. I plan to put into practice the knowledge I acquired at the university in the service of my fellow compatriots. I know that the political and economic situations of Haiti are critical and need improvements. Still, I would like to be optimistic.”

Héléna’s experience of Canada: “Independence. It was the first time that I left my parents, especially my mom to whom I am very close. It was the first time that I faced the world by myself. I am really happy for having succeeded. I left home with an objective and I reached it. This experience taught me that success is the fruit of determination, hard work, will and patience. It also gave me maturity, courage and strength to fight for what I want in life. Also, I will never forget the cold. It was my first experience with winter and friendly Manitobans are welcoming, helpful and warm enough for me to survive the season!

Jaquet Duval – Bachelor of Business Administration

Jaquet considers it a privilege to have attended The University of Winnipeg and a big accomplishment to complete his degree. “We felt at home here because of the friendliness and kindness we have received.” He is also inspired to continue learning and will seek out further educational opportunities. Jaquet, who is 26 years old, has two dreams for his future.

“I want to transfer the knowledge I have obtained to Haitian children, and one day I would like to open a business and create employment for Haitian people.”

Jaquet’s Canadian moment: “We tried tubing. It was kind of scary but also fun!”

Vanessa Laurent, the fifth student from Haiti, is currently completing her studies at The University of Winnipeg and is expected to graduate in the coming months with a Bachelor of Arts (Politics).


  • catherine said...

    I have never been so proud of Winnipeg – to read about these five brave students from Haiti, and how they were embraced and supported by the University of Winnipeg. Life is painful. Life is beautiful.

  • James Serpico said...

    I hope they do well.
    People who move to Winnipeg have been heard to complain of complacency and stuffiness in w work and business cultures. There is a perception of too many old-boy networks making it difficult for newcomers to obtain university level jobs and to get better paid jobs.