Virginia Tech students and the local community will have two opportunities to learn from Father Joseph B. Philippe, who has dedicated his life to helping the poor of Haiti help themselves.

Philippe will give a lecture entitled “Empowering Local Grassroots Organizations to Create Wealth in Rural Haiti” on Tuesday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m. in Torgersen 3100. The presentation is free and open to the public.

On Monday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m., Father Joseph will discuss service-learning opportunities in Haiti for Virginia Tech students in Lavery 335. This event is also open to the public.

In 2004, Philippe founded the University of Fondwa, an educational institution committed to sustainable and integrated development in rural Haiti. Philippe also established and helps manage numerous commercial ventures including an agricultural, reforestation, and animal husbandry project; a bakery; a guest center/educational tourist program; a restaurant; an auto parts shop; a guest house; a cement store; and a scaffolding rental company.

Philippe, who goes by “Father Joseph,” is a Haitian Spiritan priest who studied at the Chicago Theological Union and the Centre Lebret in Paris. Besides starting the university, Philippe also founded the Association of Peasants of Fondwa; and FONKOZE-HAITI, the “alternative bank for the organized poor.”  

Also, on behalf of the University of Fondwa, Philippe will be signing a “memorandum of understanding” with Virginia Tech. This is a collaborative agreement to cooperate on specific tasks or issues.

The invitation for Philippe to visit Blacksburg was extended by Laura Zanotti, associate professor of political science; Nancy McGehee, J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Junior Faculty Fellow of Hospitality Management; and Max Stephenson, professor in the Urban Planning and Affairs program and director of the Institute for Policy and Governance. The three Virginia Tech faculty members first visited Haiti in May 2011 and have been exploring collaborative opportunities with Philippe since that time.

Philippe’s visit is sponsored by the Dean’s Advisory Committee on International Initiatives in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences; the College of Architecture and Urban Studies; the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management in Pamplin College of Business; Outreach and International Affairs; Institute for Policy and Governance; and the Department of Political Science.