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Earthquake in Haiti touches campus community—Grad student alive and well


By Dateline staff

Starry Sprenkle and her husband, Erlantz, and their daughter, Jasmine.

Starry Sprenkle and her husband, Erlantz, and their daughter, Jasmine.

A UC Davis graduate student and her family are safe and sound in Haiti, while a Haitian scholar who has been studying here is making his way back to the earthquake-shattered nation.

Doctoral student Starry Sprenkle, her husband, Dr. Erlantz Hyppolite, and their 20-month-old daughter, Jasmine, survived the Jan. 12 quake unharmed, Sprenkle's parents learned early today.

Meanwhile, Jean Marc Francois Pierre, a scholar in the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program on campus, has left Davis to attempt to return to his country to check on his new wife.

“I’m so relieved to hear that Starry and her family are safe," Chancellor Linda Katehi said. "I’m hoping that our international scholar, Jean Marc, will find his family safe as well when he returns to Haiti.

"We’ll continue to hold them, and all the people of Haiti, in our thoughts and prayers as they deal with the devastating losses caused by the earthquake. Times like this remind us how fragile the world is and how important our connections to one another are.”

Sprenkle, who has been doing field research in ecology in Haiti for the past couple of years, was traveling with her daughter when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the afternoon of Jan. 12. They were en route from their home in Deschappelle to the capital city of Port-au-Prince, about 2 1/2 hours away.

Sprenkle had sent a text message to her father at 1:53 p.m. that day, telling him of her travel plan. Sh did not mention the quake.

Sprenkle's parents did not hear from their daughter again until 3:30 a.m. Thursday (Jan. 14), when she reached her mother by phone to report that she, her husband and their daughter were all right.

"We are incredibly relieved and hopeful," said her father, Stephen Sprenkle, of Salinas, Calif. "They survived the earthquake and now, if they can survive the aftermath, then we're all good. What's going on in Port-au-Prince is just unimaginable."

Sprenkle said his daughter was heading to Port-au-Prince to join her husband, who is a physician at the Hospital Albert Schweitzer Haiti of Deschapelles. His son-in-law's mother had just died, Sprenkle said.

"I know she wanted to be there for him this time," Sprenkle said.

Starry Sprenkle’s faculty mentor, Kevin Rice, a professor in ecology and plant sciences, said she is in Haiti to work on a community-based project involving orchard rebuilding and soil replenishing. Haiti suffers from severe erosion.

Rice said he expects Sprenkle to return to UC Davis in the next few months to continue work on her degree.

Francois Pierre left Davis Wednesday evening for Haiti. Francois Pierre was recently married there, according to Paul Marcotte, associate director for international programs in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. His wife remained in Haiti while he returned to UC Davis to complete his studies.

Marcotte said Francois Pierre booked a flight to the neighboring Dominican Republic and planned to cross the border to Port-au-Prince by taxi and motorcycle. He was due to arrive in the Dominican Republic today. The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is expecting him and will offer assistance, Marcotte said.

Francois Pierre was studying development agriculture through the Humphrey fellowship program, which brings scholars and mid-career professionals from around the world to study at UC. His place in the program will remain open until he can return to his studies, Marcotte said.

How to help

Please go to the following sites for more information on the earthquake recovery efforts and how to directly support Haitian relief efforts:

U.S. Department of State (to text a donation or access relief organizations)

InterAction (lists agencies that are responding to the crisis and accepting donations)

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