Fear paralyzed me. Although questions about my family’s safety clawed at me, I felt nothing. I sat in front of the television watching headlines projecting the devastation of the 7.0 earthquake that rocked my hometown of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Every word failed to penetrate my terror-induced stupor. For two days I was unable to reach my family and was left with only the hope that they were all still alive.

Turnier with fellow volunteers and children in Haiti.

Our ultimate goal is to build several 14-room schoolhouses, each containing two pre-school classes as well as classes ranging from first through 12th grades. Building Haiti’s goal for the summer of 2010 is to raise money for our first school, which will be constructed in the fall. This school will be named in honor of a close personal friend and fellow University of Virginia student, Pierrette Stephanie Jean-Charles, who passed away during the earthquake. This school will be christened B.H. Pierrette Stephanie in hopes that we can continue her dream of developing sustainable education in the country she so dearly loved. In addition to revamping Haitian education, the schools will increase job opportunities in Port-au-Prince, as local Haitians will complete the construction. Our schools will also incorporate projects such as planting trees as a means of environmental sustainability.

While the construction of our first school will provide Haiti with an enduring asset, our impact will not stop there. In time, Building Haiti hopes to branch out from the University of Virginia to other universities throughout America in order to increase the number of students working for a legacy that will last for generations.

In recent years, Haiti has lived through an increasing level of abject poverty, skyrocketing illiteracy rates and government corruption. In spite of all this, millions of Haitians still believe in a brighter future for their country; all they need is a glimmer of hope.

Ania Turnier is a current first-year student.