A Helping Hand for Haitian Relatives

Haiti was hit by deadly flooding and a 4.9 earthquake in June.

When he was younger, Joseph Noël ’24 would often tag along as his mother stopped at the post office or the grocery store as part of her general routine.

Another frequent stop, Noël said, was the Western Union, where his mother would send as much money as she could spare to relatives in Haiti.

“I didn’t really understand the significance of it. I thought she was just doing a nice thing,” Noël said. “As I got older I started to see all the hurricanes, the earthquakes, the presidential assassination. I started to understand how bad it really was.”

Haiti was rocked by another deadly 4.9 magnitude earthquake June 5, days after relentless flooding killed more than 40 and injured more than 80 people. The ongoing natural disasters, rampant crime, and senseless violence in Haiti over the past few years have pushed Noël and his mother, Erla, to help family members get out of Haiti.

“It’s hard to think about family members living down there in those conditions,” Noël said.

A Helping Hand

Under a sponsorship policy announced by President Biden earlier this year, up to 30,000 residents per month are allowed to come to the United States from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela—so long as a sponsor can pay for their expenses.

“When we heard we could sponsor relatives and get them out of that situation, I was really excited,” Noël said. “It’s just tough to know your family is living in such a horrible situation.”

Joseph Noël '24 and his family.
Joseph Noël ’24, and his family hope to bring relatives from hard-struck Haiti to the U.S. From left, Noël’s father, who also is named Joseph, his younger brother Joël, his older sister Noelani, Joseph, and his mother Erla Noël

Noël’s mother moved from Haiti to Massachusetts when she was in first grade. She visited Haiti a few times while she was growing up, but it was her most recent trip—to attend her mother’s funeral in 2021—that motivated Noël to help their relatives in any way she could.

“That’s when I really saw the poor conditions. I connected and spent time with a lot of my family, my nieces and nephews, everyone. That’s when I saw the struggle, that’s when I saw the poverty,” Noël said. “You can be talking on the phone with them, but you don’t see what they’re dealing with, you don’t see the living conditions. That visit was when I was really like, ‘Wow.’ ”

A Better Life

Noel grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and came to Babson College with an interest in trading and investments, as well as entrepreneurship.

“I really liked the idea of starting something and watching it grow, and I appreciate learning about leadership,” Noel said.

He is one of many students on the Wellesley campus who has been impacted by international events. Babson students from Turkey, for example, sprang into action in February when a 7.9 magnitude earthquake devastated the country. They raised more than $16,000 to help earthquake victims. Liliia Alieksanova ’25, a Global Scholar from Ukraine, organized a rally in support of her country after Russia invaded.

“It’s hard to think about family members living down there in those conditions. I want to support my parents and my relatives any way I can. We want to bring them here and give them a better life and a new start.”
Joseph Noël '24

Noël has never visited Haiti, but he noticed his mother’s determination when she returned from her 2021 visit.

“When my mom came back, she started talking about her family a lot more,” Noël said. “She has a nephew who is an artist, and he loves to paint. She was sending me a lot of his pictures, and it was really nice to learn more about them.”

The family wants to give those young relatives the same chance they had when they came to the United States a few decades ago. Erla and her husband, who also has relatives in Haiti, have opened a GoFundMe account, which would help raise roughly $8,000 to sponsor up to eight of their nieces and nephews. Noël, like many students at Babson, wants to do his part to help.

“I want to support my parents and my relatives any way I can,” Noël said. “We want to bring them here and give them a better life and a new start.”

Posted in Entrepreneurial Leadership

More from Entrepreneurial Leadership »