Five university students from Haiti, some who were buried in rubble after that country's devastating earthquake, are getting a new start at the University of Winnipeg.
The university held a Creole breakfast Friday morning to welcome the students and $50,000 to help them stay and study in the city.
"We have been welcomed like kings and queens," said student Jean Widny Pervil, who was joined at the breakfast by countrymates Vanessa K. Laurent, Helena Vickaina Lafleur, Jaquet Duval, and Samy Archille.
Pervil was about to take an exam in Haiti when his university collapsed around him on Jan. 12.
"I've seen people bleeding all over, I've seen people without any hands, without any head. People screaming, shouting. It's like everyone become crazy," he said.
'We feel that we are the five luckiest students.'—Jean Widny Pervil
Many Haitian students have been accepted at univeristies around the world and his group is thrilled to be in Winnipeg, Pervil said.
"We feel that we are the five luckiest students," he said. "We receive more than a full scholarship — love, comprehension, understanding and compassion."
Neil Besner, the U of W's vice president for students and international affairs, said the university decided it had to do something after seeing footage of the magnitude 7.0 quake — centred just 15 kilometres southwest of the capital of Port-au-Prince — that ravaged the country.
The Haitian government reported that an estimated 230,000 people had died and about three million were affected.
"Some of these students were buried alive, they were pulled out of the rubble. So we thought we should try and do something to help some of them complete their education," said Besner.
The university is covering a "significant" amount of the costs for the students, including airfare, tuition, residence fees, meal plans and counselling, according to a news release.
However, a public appeal for more money is necessary to cover the costs for clothing, books and school supplies, medical supports, monthly allowances and the eventual return airfare to Haiti.
The students are expected to be in the city for at least two years.
Pervil wants to finish a business degree then return to Haiti and help his people.