Nine African Students Escape Hurricane Katrina & Find Homes


They now are guest students at Suffolk and are staying with University faculty members, staff and the Law School dean. “I turned to Suffolk for help, as did my fellow New Orleans classmates and friends, mainly because I had attended the Dakar campus,” said Fadel I. Diallo of Burkina Faso, a senior completing a degree in Business Administration.

“ Both the Dakar and the Boston campuses were amazing,” he said. “On the Dakar campus, Dr. Lewis Shaw, the executive director, has been of crucial importance both in communicating with the affected students as well as with the parents and the Boston campus staff. In Boston, from the president, Mr. David J. Sargent to the faculty members and the old Dakar friends and students, the devotion was huge.”

Robert DeFillippi, a professor of Management at Suffolk University's Sawyer Business School, first heard of the students' plight on Thursday, Sept. 8. Two days later, he had offered Diallo the bedroom of a son attending college in Baltimore. Another one of DeFillippi's sons, Chris, a senior at Suffolk University, is helping Diallo get adjusted to life on the Beacon Hill campus.

“Fadel is our son for the term,” said DeFillippi, of Melrose. “He was traveling light, because when the flood hit, all his belongings were wiped out.”

“I just feel happy, good and safe at the DeFillippis,” said Diallo. “Christopher is like the big brother, even though we are about the same age. When he goes out, he does not let me down; he asks me if I want to come.”

At a time when many people want to help Hurricane Katrina victims, but feel helpless, DeFillippi and his wife, Jane, are pleased to be able to offer Diallo a home. In fact, DeFillippi had had to dissuade his wife, Jane, a nurse, from hopping a flight to New Orleans to help out in the wake of the disaster.

“It seemed we could do something more concrete by providing Fadel a home,” said DeFillippi.” The fact that he is part of a Suffolk Dakar community also had special appeal to me because I have had some wonderful experiences teaching Dakar graduates at Suffolk and this made helping out much more personal and meaningful.”

Law School Dean Robert Smith has offered a home to two of the displaced students. His family had come together over the Labor Day weekend in celebration of his daughter's wedding, but at the same time they were hearing reports of the devastation from Hurricane Katrina.

“We were thinking about how fortunate we have been with our family and friends and our living situation, and at the same time feeling compassion for the experience of those caught in the hurricane,” said Smith. When they heard of the students' plight, Smith and his wife welcomed an opportunity to share their Newton home.

Twelve West Africans came from New Orleans to Suffolk's Boston campus, according to Daphne Durham, Suffolk's Director of Internationalization Services in the Center for International Education. One is a recent graduate who is carrying on a job search through Suffolk's Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education. The other 11 have enrolled in courses at Suffolk. A friend from Mali joined the students who had begun their pursuit of higher education at Suffolk's Dakar campus in Francophone Senegal. The African students had been attracted to New Orleans' warm climate, French culture and lower cost of living.


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