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Haitian Facts

This is a menu of the topics on this page (click on any): Palm Beach Post, 7/19/00    Haitians    Haitian    Haiti    Sun Sentinel, 3/17/2000    Palm Beach Post, published: March 8, 2000    In the works for Friends of Haiti.   .

Palm Beach Post, 7/19/00

A life dedicated to helping Haitians

By Katie Mee, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, July 19, 2000

He's only been in Delray Beach for two years, but Joseph Bernadel is already making a difference. "I came to Delray Beach after retiring from a 26-year military career because of the Haitian population here," Bernadel, 53, said. "I wanted to be a part of that community and help it to become better."

After being in Delray Beach for only a short while, he was asked to become the first executive director for the Milagro Center.  "I spent one year at the Milagro Center and had a fantastic experience,"      said the Hawaii Pacific University graduate. "I learned a lot. I got to  know the nonprofit world."

He left the Milagro Center so he could focus more on the needs of Haitian people.  "With the Haitian community growing so quickly, I want to guide them and help them move forward," he said. "We make up 27 percent of the population but have no representation socially or economically. The way to change that is through education. They need to recognize their own need to participate."

To accomplish his goal, Bernadel has begun work on the Osceola      Neighborhood Outreach Center, 394 S.E. 5th Ave., which will serve to develop a sense of unity among the neighbors.  "The center won't only be a place for kids to come when they aren't in school, it will be a place for everyone," said the vice president and executive director of the center for education, training, and holistic approaches.

"Our goal will be to train the Haitian community and to make them aware of all the services they have available to them and how they can achieve the  American dream."  The center, which will open in late August or September, will train people for better jobs, offer a variety of classes, teach computer skills and serve as a place for members of the community to gather, among a number of other services.

"We no longer fit the profile of immigrants. We are starting to move up the ladder," said the fluent speaker of Creole, French, English, Spanish and Portuguese. "I want to see these people move from dishwashers or maids to something better."

Bernadel served as a U.S. military attach and state department adviser to the Haitian National Police. He spent many years overseas building communities. "It was the time spent in the military that gave me the training needed to make this a success," said the president of the National Haitian Coalition Inc., an organization formed to recognize and support the Haitian community as well as educate the people of Delray Beach about their culture. "The ideas have always been in my head, and now I finally get to put them       into action. I would like to see this type of center opened in Lake Worth and West Palm Beach as well."

And just in case the creation of the center hasn't kept this father of two busy enough, he is also one of the founders of the International Museum of Haitian Art and Culture set to open in November 2001 in Delray Beach.

"I just want to make our community a full-fledged community just like every other," he said. "I want to make the Haitians true contributors to Palm Beach County -- home buyers, spenders, workers, etc. This will help get us there."

Palm Beach Post, Saturday, May 6, 2000

Delray Beach --  ... He left his old one in March 4 when he resigned as head of the Milagro Center to concentrate more on helping his own people. "I attribute a large part of the success of my life to being Haitian," he said.  

A native of Haiti, Bernadel, 52, served in the U.S. Army for 21 years as a military attach to the U.S. embassies in Haiti and Mozambique. He also served as a State Department consultant to Haiti, helping rebuild the Haitian national police. Through NHC he wants to build relationships between the more than 12,000 Haitians living in Delray Beach and the rest of the city. 

The National Haitian Coalition branch will concentrate on the proposed Haitian museum, a community center and a project to help retrieve stolen Haitian art. Bernadel planned to open the museum in a house donated by developer Thomas Worrell, Milagro's benefactor. But plans for the museum stalled after Bernadel left Milagro, said Simon Harvey, president of Worrell's Dharma Holdings company. Bernadel now hopes to put the museum in the Delray Beach Public Library building after the library's expected move to West Atlantic Avenue in about two years. The donated house may become the museum's administrative offices. The coalition also wants to meet with Haiti's national museum about its efforts to recover Haitian paintings and sculptures stolen from the country. 

"We're doing a lot of the preliminary fact-finding," Bernadel said. "(But) eventually we want to make this a home for the community." 

Sun Sentinel, 3/17/2000

Published: March 17, 2000 
Section: LOCAL 
Page: 1B 
By Leon Fooksman, Staff Writer 
Language barriers, cultural differences and limited job skills can 
jeopardize a Haitian immigrant's adjustment to this country.
In Palm Beach County, the need to help those immigrants has propelled one man to quit his job to form a one-stop community center in the city that would provide a litany of support services under one roof. Joseph Bernadel, a Haitian-American and a retired Army major, said the proposed center would provide English language classes, job and life skills training, and assistance in everyday living, from finding housing to balancing a checkbook. Providing such services would help Haitian immigrants integrate more quickly into American society and stay off social programs.
"We need to break this cycle of poverty that generates so many social ills," Bernadel said. "Because services aren't provided in an integrated way, people are slipping through the cracks, and families are under a lot of stress." Bernadel's plan is still in its infancy. He doesn't yet have the financial backing to launch such an effort, and he doesn't have a building or even the staff to run the center. Nonetheless, he's determined to open the center in a highly visible location within two years. So dedicated is Bernadel to the project that he quit his job last week as executive director of the Milagro Center, a nonprofit arts, cultural and educational facility in Delray Beach. Bernadel envisions the two-story, 6,500-square-foot center in one of three locations: on West Atlantic Avenue, on Linton Boulevard across from the Costco store or on South Federal Highway. While the center would duplicate some services currently provided, Bernadel said, it would be the first of its kind in the city, with language skills and job-training initiatives that go beyond existing programs. He said as many as 800 people a year would be served. The center also would include an art studio where Haitian artists can sell their wares and teach others their techniques, he said. In addition to the center, and in a separate building on Southeast First Street, Bernadel wants to establish an art museum showcasing Haitian art, traditional Haitian drums and the migration story of Haitians coming to South Florida. He hopes to open the museum before the end of the year. His idea for a community center is generally supported by the city's elected officials and Haitian leaders. However, some people worry that a Haitian center and a museum would act as a magnet, drawing a large number of new immigrants to the city. The last wave, about a decade ago, created a housing shortage, forcing many people into crowded and illegal conditions, said Delray Beach Mayor-elect David Schmidt. Currently, services for the almost 13,000 Haitians in the city are mostly in social services, English-language programs and employment training. The Haitian American Community Council on Southeast Second Street offers family counseling and immigration and housing assistance. The Center for Minority Human Services on West Atlantic Avenue offers computer technology, refrigerator maintenance and other employment training courses. "There's room for everyone here," said Daniella Henry, executive director of the Haitian American Community Council. "There's a lot of needs, and 
one agency isn't enough." Bernadel's center would go further by offering immigrants the skills to gain higher-paying jobs in fields such as construction and postal delivery, he said. He also would change the way language skills are taught. Bernadel said there needs to be an emphasis on literacy, first in their native Creole language, then in English. Sunday-Joseph Otengho, a Palm Beach County School District administrator who specializes in multicultural affairs, said the proposed center is definitely needed in the community. His only issue is that, instead of teaching illiterate Haitians to read and write in Creole first, they should learn the basics of English to better function in society. Afterward, they can always go back and learn to read and write in their native language, he said. "They need skills to survive at first," he said. City officials urge Bernadel to discuss the center with them and other Haitians to make sure the community truly needs another agency. "If the intent of this is to educate and acclimate the recent immigrants, 
then it's a good concept," outgoing Mayor Jay Alperin said. "But let's discuss it and plan it." Bernadel said he needs to raise at least $400,000 to open the building and another $300,000 annually for the operating budget, which would include paying a director and four staff members. Bernadel said he's in discussions with a private foundation to receive $350,000, but he would not divulge details of those talks. The rest of the money, he said, would come from public grants. Once the plans are solidified, Bernadel said, he hopes to get the city involved. He said he doesn't intend for the center to attract hundreds of newcomers to Delray Beach. His main objective is to improve the lives and conditions for the existing residents. "There's a pervasive sense that the Haitian people haven't been treated with a sense of fair play," Bernadel said. "We don't expect special privileges, but just an opportunity to serve."

Copyright © Sun Sentinel,  2000 

Palm Beach Post, published: March 8, 2000

Joseph Bernadel is a retired military man specializing in "subterfuge."  "Subterfuge means using the arts to bring people together who might not  otherwise rub shoulders," he said. "It's a way to build community." "Joe has a very unique background, from his upbringing in Haiti to his military career," said Kenneth Aguon, senior vice president of World Savings and Loan. He's the definition of multitasking. He truly functions in 20 different capacities, 24 hours a day. He's extremely articulate, and when he meets people with needs, they become his needs."
Copyright © Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc., 2000 

In the works for Friends of Haiti.

Friends of Haiti (FOH) which seeks supporters and sponsors.

A community center with branches in Lake Worth, West Palm Beach and Delray Beach.

A museum and artisans center which will showcase and teach Haitian arts and crafts.

The art recovery program which will seek to reclaim important works lost to Haiti over the years and keep them safely in Florida until such time as they can be returned to Haiti. For example, the smithsonian has a button reportedly from the jacket of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the liberator of Haiti. It belongs to the Haitian people.

A memorial to the Haitian people to commemorate those who died at sea in an attempt to seek a better life

A safe house which will provide a home for Haitian children needing refuge for a day or on a long term basis.

A monument which will be a gift from the Haitian people to the people of Palm Beach County.

Haiti Foundation for education which will include a bicentennial celebration of Haiti's freedom in 2004, the Haiti Delray festival, the Delray-Les Cayes sister city program, a Haitian monument which will be a gift to the people of Palm Beach County, and the 100 mile miracle race from Krome Detention Center to Delray Beach.

Community Outreach

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