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CCU Atheneum:

Coastal offers scholarship, aid to Haitian student

by Martha Hunn
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When Pierre Henry Valdema heard the good news that Coastal Carolina University would pay for his college expenses, it was like dawn breaking in very dark night.

Valdema, a junior at CCU, is from Port au Prince, Haiti, and most of his family members are back home putting the pieces of their lives together while helping others recover from the devastation of the recent earthquake.

Pierre’s father is a minister who officiates over the six churches of St. Simeon Episcopal Church. The church also operates six elementary schools. His mom is a full-time nurse who also runs nutrition programs for severely malnourished children.

Valdenma’s parents had been helping him pay for his college tuition and living expenses every month. But that came to an abrupt end on Jan. 12 when the magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti’s capital, crumbling one of the parish churches and damaging several others. The families of 25 church workers lost everything but the clothes on their bodies, and now they sleep on the church grounds, afraid to stay inside the buildings that still stand.

An exchange student living in the home of Richard and Rebecca Lovelace in Conway, Valdema is working toward a degree in computer science with a minor in math. He also works 20 hours a week as a student worker, repairing computers for the Office of Information Technology Systems.

Pierre found his way to Horry County through the mission’s work of Christian Haitian American Partners (CHAP). Lovelace has been a leader in the CHAP organization for many years, and has traveled with groups to Haiti to support the work of the Valdema family. Pierre met Rebecca when he served as a translator helping the CHAP group provide fluoride treatments for children.

Lovelace contacted CCU President Dave DeCenzo after the earthquake to let him know about Pierre’s situation, and DeCenzo authorized a scholarship that will cover the balance of Pierre’s tuition until he graduates. The award will also provide funds for his books, meal plans and housing.

Valdema was overjoyed when he heard about the scholarship and contacted his parents immediately. “I couldn’t reach them by phone so I sent a text message,” says Pierre. “My father sent one back saying ‘Glory to God.’”

When asked if he would like to return to Haiti to live eventually, Valedma expressed a desire to continue his studies in computer science, hoping to earn a graduate degree. After that, he would like to return to Haiti to work and help people there.

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