Miami Law student Charles Haskell has been declared the winner of a Miami Herald scholarship contest that sought articles from students about the second anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti on Jan. 12.
Haskell's winning article – a touching profile of Richard Jacque-Pierre, a 58-year-old Haitian refugee who came to Miami shortly after the 2010 earthquake and fears being deported back to Haiti – graced print editions of the Herald, as well as its website.
The article explains how Jacque-Pierre was pinned under rubble by the quake, alongside the dead body of a doctor, for four days until he was rescued. The earthquake decimated his family, killing eight of his 14 children. He has not fully recovered from his injuries and remains on crutches, even as he tries in vain to make a living in Miami so that he can support what remains of his family back in Haiti. His application for asylum in the United States was denied because, according to Haskell's article, the government does not consider the earthquake a valid reason for granting permanent asylum here.
The Jan. 12, 2010, disaster left an estimated 316,000 people dead, 300,000 injured and more than 1 million homeless. The quake destroyed wide swaths of the country's capital, Port-au-Prince, which had already struggled for decades with rampant poverty and a severely compromised infrastructure.
Haskell, a JD/MA student, is a native of Oklahoma. He joined Miami Law in fall 2011 to pursue a joint degree in law and communications. Before enrolling, Haskell worked in Washington D.C. as a news production specialist for The Associated Press and as a producer for NBC News. While at NBC, he assisted Andrea Mitchell, the network's chief foreign affairs correspondent, in her coverage of the transition of power in Cuba from Fidel Castro to his brother, Raul Castro. Haskell also interviewed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy after they had appeared on "CBS Sunday Morning."
In an e-mail last month, Haskell described his article for the Herald as "pretty much a story about this guy who's had a rough time and running out of options." He said that Jacque-Pierre cannot afford the filing fee for an application for Temporary Protected Status, which could extend his time in the United States, and that the woman who has been taking care of him cannot afford to keep paying his rent or his bills.