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UB student focused on helping home country of Haiti

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Buffalo: UB student focused on helping home country of Haiti
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Wednesday marks the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, and as YNN's Megan Cruz reports, Western New Yorkers are playing a significant role in the country's rebuilding efforts. BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Pierre Fouche is a PhD student studying earthquake engineering at the University at Buffalo. He's also Haitian, so Wednesday's anniversary is a reminder of what he's working towards.

"Maybe in the near future, we won't lose as many people as we did last year," said Fouche.

He was in Buffalo when he first heard about the earthquake, and was in shock.

"When numbers started coming out, it started to sink in. It was a very difficult moment, to think that thousands of people died in a second."

As for Fouche's own family, it took three agonizing days, but he finally received word they were all right. Since then, he's been focused on two things: Working on designing bridges that could withstand not only earthquakes, but terrorist attacks and other disasters, and teaching others back home what he's learned here at UB's world-renowned earthquake engineering center.

"I've been home a couple of times already with that program and so far, we've taught 250 engineers from my home country; teaching them about earthquake engineering, teaching them how structures behave in earthquakes."

So while Pierre works on the long-term solutions, other Western New Yorkers think about the present, sending whatever they can to make a difference.

"We get little notes from people saying they broke into their piggy banks or sent their tooth fairy money," said Nancy Blaschak ofd the Greater Buffalo chapter of the Red Cross.

Blaschak says a total of $1,000,000 was raised this past year, and more than half has been used to pay for emergency relief efforts. The rest will be used to keep hospitals open, provide drinking water, and build shelters.

"Think about the population of Erie County, which is a little over a million people. That's the number of people that are homeless," said Blaschak.

Fouche appreciates every cent that goes back home.

"A year after, it's much more of the same thing that we saw right after the earthquake. Still have people living in tents, people who need to be taken care of in terms of health."

Fouche hopes Western New Yorkers will keep Haiti in mind, because much more is needed to rebuild his country.

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