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UT alumna and architecture graduate Joleen Darrah with Fond-des-Blanc school children.

In the early hours of October 4, Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti as a Category 4 storm. Livestock was swept away, crops were destroyed, and more than 200 houses were damaged. Tragically, more than a thousand people lost their lives.

John McRae, professor of architecture at UT.
John McRae, professor of architecture at UT.

The hurricane blew ashore near a small village called Fond-des-Blancs, located in the southwestern part of the island. It is here that UT’s College of Architecture and Design has a deep connection and devotion to the family-oriented community.

For the past six years John McRae, a professor in the School of Architecture, has led more than 70 students to design structures for the people of Fond-des-Blancs, including a medical facility, housing, and a school, which was built in 2012.

During the hurricane, part of the roofing system for the school’s sports fields was ripped off its foundation.

“The roof provides much-needed relief from the relentless sun for students and families attending sporting and community events,” said McRae. “Immediately after the storm, many alumni who had worked so closely with our Haitian friends over the years, as well as students currently designing projects for Haiti, began seeking information and asking how they can help.”

Although much is needed in Haiti, the college is focusing on raising $5,000 through the Haiti Hurricane Rebuild Project via VOLstarter, UT’s crowdfunding site. Funds raised will purchase new building materials for the roofing system.

Original construction of the roofing system and seating at the school's sports field.
Original construction of the roofing system and seating at the school’s sports field.

Since 2010, students in McRae’s classes have committed their design ingenuity to solve multiple health, safety, and sustainability issues in Haiti. Their first project, L’Exode Secondary School, offers a facility for students to get a quality education in a modern and safe environment, and includes a cafeteria where students receive daily nutrition.

“Sometimes in the midst of devastation, good arises,” said McRae. “Our students are committed to this community and its people. Any amount anyone can give is greatly appreciated.”


Amanda F. Johnson (865-974-0891,

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,