Today, Jan. 12 is the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. It was the strongest earthquake to hit Haiti in more than 200 years. Hundreds of thousands of people died and thousands were hurt. The following is a story about how SSG Pamphile helped in Haiti’s reconstruction during the past year. He is still accepting computers to send to Bainet City in Haiti.
Recruiter brings communication to his native country
By Christine June
Harrisburg Battalion A&PA
A trip back home to Haiti for Staff Sgt. Param Pamphile resulted in about 250,000 people having internet access for the first time.
“When I went back, I visited schools about 20 minutes from the capital (Port-au-Prince),” said Pamphile, who is a reserve recruiter from the State College Recruiting Station. “What I saw…it was just basic stuff …chalkboards, desks, paper, pencils…not one computer. It was just the same as when I was a child attending school there.”
A U.S. citizen since 2000, Pamphile’s visit was the first time he had been to Haiti since he left there in 1993 when he was 16 years old. His visit was in August 2009, five months before the Magnitude 7.0 Mw (moment magnitude scale) earthquake would devastate Haiti.
Students, who are the country’s future, trying to learn in these classrooms void of technology haunted Pamphile.
“From my experience with computers, I knew it wouldn’t take much to get these people off of the ground,” said Pamphile, who is a 2002 Penn State University information technology sciences graduate. “Just get them a basic computer that someone here doesn’t use and that I can fix.”
Before he even left, Pamphile talked to his brother-in-law, Melerb Gein-Francois, a congressman in Haiti, about getting computers to the 17 schools in his district of Bainet City, which serves as a center for nine villages with a population of about 250,000 people.
Within the first month being back, Pamphile bought five laptop computers online for about $150 each, fixed them up, installed free online software, and mailed them along with a projector to Haiti in care of his brother-in-law.
“It was a very positive effect,” Gein-Francois said in French to Pamphile who translated in English. “Many had not seen – let alone used – a computer before.”
Gein-Francois said students traveled from the nine villages to a central location in Bainet City to use Pamphile’s refurbished computers. He added that they were just starting internet access in that area for the first time when the earthquake hit on Jan.12, 2010, leveling Port-au-Prince.
Pamphile’s computers were not damaged during the earthquake, and after a few months, the limited internet access returned to the province.
“They didn’t have means to communicate with the world before, but now they are talking to other students around the world from their classrooms and communicating with family in other countries,” Gein-Francois said.
However, Pamphile felt that his contributions were just “a small drop in the bucket” assistance that Haitians needed to be competitive in today’s high-tech world.
“When the earthquake happened, I knew that whatever I had been doing would need to step up – big time,” said Pamphile, who wants to make a significant difference in his home country.
Stepping up, though, was going to be quite expensive. Pamphile had already spent close to $5,000 on the first shipment.
“I started asking friends to donate their old computers,” said Pamphile, who added that he also purchased desktops at a reasonable price for the PSU Salvage Store.
One of those friends who donated computers was his Recruiting Station Commander Sgt. 1st Class Jason Stouffer.
“I thought it was a great thing he was doing,” said Stouffer, who added that Pamphile has helped his fellow recruiters with their personal computers. “He’s a computer guru.”
By the end of August, Pamphile has sent 30 computers to the province.