Monday, November 29, 2010

The Forgotten Founding Father

Washington. Jefferson. Franklin. Adams. Hamilton.

And, yes, Morris.

If you're like most people, when you think of the American Revolution, you probably think of Washington's daring Christmas-night crossing of the Delaware River, Franklin's diplomatic efforts overseas, Jefferson's writing of the Declaration of Independence, or any number of other extraordinary contributions made by our "Founding Fathers."

Unfortunately, more often than not, Robert Morris's important role is forgotten.

But according to "This Rebel Came Armed With a Balance Sheet," John Steele Gordon's review of Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution by Charles Rappleye (Simon & Schuster), Morris deserves more credit than he is usually given. (The book review recently appeared recently in The Wall Street Journal.)

Of course, here at Robert Morris University, we already knew that.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Teach a man to fish...

RMU economist Brian O'Roark recently traveled to Haiti to help build a water treatment facility with his church mission group, and to promote sustainable development there. Below is his account of the trip. For more background, check out this story at the RMU web site.

We flew from Pittsburgh to Port-au-Prince on Saturday. The tent cities were prominent, but they seemed somewhat orderly from the air. No cholera outbreaks in the capital at last report. We landed and were trucked to another terminal for our flight north to Cap Hatian. The dust was thick as we exited the terminal you could feel it on your teeth. People were calling from the other side of the fence, begging for “something”. We entered the terminal for Tortug Airlines, a national airline where the planes had two props and no cockpit doors. We were only slightly comforted when the pilot placed a Garmin on the dashboard.

Cap Haitian was about as third world as you could expect. Animals roamed about with abandoned. The trash on the side of the road was ankle deep, but the goats and pigs seemed to enjoy it. What appeared to be burned out busses gave the scene a Mad Max look. Our expectations were lowered as we left town in the back of a Daihatsu pickup for the 35-mile trip to Fort Liberte.

We were pleasantly surprised to see much less of the chaos in Fort than in Cap. Housing was better than expected, even sleeping on the roof.

Work was hard, consisting of a lot of cement mixing, carrying, and pouring for 11 to 12 hours a day. The sunsets were stunning and some compensation for a long day in the mid 90s, with high humidity.

The Haitian men we worked with were some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. The were being paid fairly well, and they responded in kind. After a day or so we were working together despite language barriers to lay cement blocks and construct the building we were sent to complete.

The hope for the development is that some day, after the homes are built, the residents will be able to drink water from the tap. This seems like a minimal goal, but in a country like Haiti, it is a significant accomplishment and one that would save countless hours of work, not to mention improve the quality of health.

The entire experience was eye-opening and life-changing. From a narrow view of the world, you expect people in an impoverished place to be very different from you. That isn’t the case with Haiti. They want to improve their lives; it’s just much more difficult with the limitations on job opportunities, education, and basic amenities the people face. I hope I can return soon and continue the work we started there.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Back Again

[The following is an excerpt from the blog of Lee Folk, RN, BSN, who graduated from the Robert Morris University School of Nursing in May of 2010. He was the recipient of the highest undergraduate award at RMU, the Presidential Transformational Award, given in recognition of his documentary journalism in Managua, Nicaragua. He is currently employed as a staff nurse on the trauma medical-surgical unit of West Virginia University's Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia.]


Follow along on the journey of a small group of nursing students from Robert Morris University as they travel to Managua, Nicaragua, providing nursing care to some of the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere. We're in for an adventure, and it's great to have you along for the ride!

Back Again

How to begin?
That nagging question flashes over and over in my mind, synchronized with the pace of the blinking cursor on the blank screen.
How to begin….how to begin… to begin….
Well, I suppose I should begin by saying hello to all my readers out there. Thanks for stopping by. I hope this blog entry finds you all happy and well.
At the moment, I’m sitting amidst a chaotic scene in my bedroom. My mother will tell you that this room is always a chaotic scene, but tonight, my surroundings have reached new depths of devastation. My fourth trip to Nicaragua looms on the horizon, and I am in the throws of preparation for another trip south. Once again, to my amazement, my passport hasn’t collected nearly as much dust as I always anticipated it would. Four trips to Nicaragua. Four stamps in the passport. In my mind’s eye, I can see many of my friends and family just shaking their heads.
Four trips to Central America in fourteen months?
I know. I’m shaking my head too.
So how did I end up in this wonderfully strange position? What in the world happened during those fourteen months to create all this commotion? That’s really an excellent question. So before I set out writing the next chapter of this crazy story, I think all of the new readers out there, and perhaps you veterans too, deserve a bit of a recap.
Don’t worry, the recap has illustrations . . .

For more, visit Lee's blog, Notes From the Field.