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Alumnus Ted Oswald Discusses Novel Inspired by Co-op in Haiti

Ted Oswald

October 09, 2012

Earle Mack School of Law Class of 2011 graduate Ted Oswald spoke about his forthcoming novel "Because We Are: A Novel of Haiti” at the law school on Oct. 8.

Oswald’s fall 2010 co-op took him to Cite Soleil, an impoverished community near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. There, he worked with the LAMP for Haiti Foundation, which provides health and legal services to dwellers of the impoverished community. As Haiti prepared for a presidential election, Oswald’s efforts focused on sharing information about the candidates with voters.

Oswald described the experience as one of the most transformative of his life, and one that inspired him to write the novel. Although the book is a fictional murder mystery, Oswald described it as a metaphor for Haiti’s struggles, a story of “inequality and injustice perceived through the eyes of a little girl.”

During his time in Haiti Oswald pondered how he could define his role as an outsider looking in.  He wrestled with the fear of becoming a “poverty tourist,” someone who observes experiences from afar but never really does anything to effectuate a change.  Such was the impetus for Oswald’s decision to donate all of the proceeds from the book’s sales to Haiti. Oswald said donating the profits ensures that his time in Haiti was “an exchange” that repays Haiti for all of the personal enrichment it gave him. “Because We Are” is also the best way to honor the Haitian people’s “amazing gesture to stand up against the tide,” Oswald concluded.

Oswald was joined by human rights attorney, and adjunct professor at the law school, Thomas Giffin, Institute for Democracy and Justice in Haiti attorney Nicole Phillips, and 1L Daphne Pierre, all who spoke about working to improve stability and the quality of life for Haitians. All encouraged the law students to seek an experience as enriching as Oswald’s because, as Giffin said, once you really fight and sink your teeth into something you believe in, it could change not only your career but also your life.