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State Department highlights NIAF's role in earthquake relief

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In a statement released yesterday, the U.S. Department of State highlighted its recent partnership with NIAF to assist the University of L'Aquila with its earthquake relief.

In particular, the State Department highlighted 10 categories in which the partnership specifically worked to improve conditions for the University of L'Aquila and its faculty, staff and students. These include:

- Adopt-a-Scholar. NIAF worked with several U.S. universities to provide scholarships for University of L'Aquila students who were displaced by the earthquake's damage. During the past year, 52 students from the University of L'Aquila have benefited from the scholarships, which have a total value of more than $1.5 million. The program will continue in Fall 2010.

- Building an Earthquake-Resistant Modular Multipurpose Center. NIAF, the State Department and the University of L'Aquila have assessed the university's building needs and have determined that permanent construction of a modular dormitory will be built in the coming months for the value of $250,000.

- University of L'Aquila / Capacity-Building in the Mental Health Field. A State Department grant was given to the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT), which hosted a four-day workshop for a team of five mental health professionals including the head of the Psychology Department of the University of L'Aquila's School of Medicine. An additional State Department grant will support the Harvard Program with a September 2010 training of Abruzzo's mental health practitioners on diagnosing and treating the earthquake's long-term effects.

- Exchanges to the United States. Six local government and University of L'Aquila leaders traveled to the United States in September 2009 under a State Department exchange program to visit academic and non-academic institutions experienced in disaster recovery and university development. Another State Department-sponsored exchange brought University of L'Aquila department heads to San Francisco and New Orleans to examine how American universities have coped with rebuilding after a natural disaster.

- Exchange to Italy. The U.S.-Italy Fulbright Program is supporting a Fulbright Specialist at the University of L'Aquila. The specialist (who holds an MBA and has expertise in aiding disaster impacted businesses) is assisting the University in building capacity so that it can be a stimulus for restoration of economic development in the area. He will be in L'Aquila a total of 42 days, departing mid-June 2010.

- English Language Teaching & Learning. A State Department grant to TESOL-Italy (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) was given for a pilot project in Abruzzo targeted at schools serving displaced students from L'Aquila. This project included the acquisition and distribution of Italian text books of English for the primary, secondary and university levels, and supported seminars, talks, and e-tutoring with educators in Abruzzo in order to make effective use of TESOL materials. The members of TESOL are volunteering their time to support the educators in Abruzzo.

- Preserving Archives. The State Department brought an expert archivist from the United States to perform an in-depth assessment of information resources in L'Aquila and to evaluate the needs of various libraries in L'Aquila, including digitalization of records.

- Donation of Information Resources. The State Department donated information and reference materials to assist L'Aquila's public libraries and school libraries. One contribution included 5,000 dictionaries for English learners that are being distributed to all high school students in the earthquake-stricken area.

- Fine Arts Curator. The U.S. Embassy has offered its experienced curator/conservator to the University of L'Aquila for the period of one month to assist the university in an art inventory or restoration project to help assess its art collection and any damage to the art caused by the earthquake.

- And. Summer Activities for Youth. The State Department supported projects in the summer and fall of 2009, undertaken by civil society groups in Abruzzo, to engage youngsters in the many tent camps with recreational activities, such as sports and games. In particular, U.S. Embassy Rome worked with the Italian Civil Protection Agency and the Italian National Basketball Federation to provide a basketball day camp for 130 young people affected by the earthquake.

The partnership between the State Department and NIAF provided a generous American response to an Italian tragedy and illustrates why NIAF's relief efforts were particularly unique.

What are your favorite elements of the partnership's work?