March 16, 2010

While his homeland struggles, Hamline French professor uses the power of language to help

Haiti image

Hamline French professor Max Adrien gets first-hand updates about his earthquake-ravaged homeland of Haiti almost every day. Adrien’s brother was working as a missionary in the country when the January 12 earthquake killed an estimated 230,000 people and left another half million homeless. His brother has remained in the country to help survivors.

“If I go there, I cannot heal. I cannot help in that capacity,” Adrien said. “Haiti is part of my heart, and I think right now the best way I can help is through donations and through my work as a teacher.”

Following the earthquake, Adrien began teaching informal classes in the Haitian Creole language to those who were interested. Hamline faculty, staff, and students, as well as people from the broader community, gather every Tuesday to learn more about the country and its native language.

Some of these students are working with non-profit agencies that are sending supplies to Haiti and are preparing to make future trips to help in the relief effort.

“There is no better way that I can help Haiti then to use what I know,” said Adrien. “What I can give people is a connection to the Haitian people.”

The connections will run deeper this summer when Haitian Creole is offered as a for-credit class in Hamline’s undergraduate Modern Languages Department. Adrien hopes to offer a similar course this fall and is working to organize a symposium that will bring together theologians, philosophers, historians, and journalists to talk about Haiti.

For now (this spring), Adrien’s class is not-for-credit, and therefore is free and open to everyone. If you are interested in attending the Haitian Creole language sessions this spring, come to Robbins Science Center, 800 Snelling Avenue N. on Hamline’s Saint Paul campus. Classes are held in Room 5 from 11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays through May 5, 2010. You can also emailMax Adrien for more information.

Click here for a message in Haitian Creole from Adrien and to see pictures from Haiti.