Ralph Cheriza is the Chief Executive Officer of the Haitian Empowerment Foundation and a former news executive from Haiti. In 1987, Ralph emerged as a young journalist at Radio Lumière, Haiti’s Southern Baptist Church News Radio Network. Rather quickly, he was promoted to News Editor then Managing Editor of the prime time news edition. After the coup d’état, when Radio Lumière closed its newsroom, Ralph moved to Signal FM where he served as a News Executive who helped build the news team and establish the station as a credible news station.
During the de facto military regime, Ralph took a firm stand against the coup d’état. In his editorials, he faulted Haiti’s political elite for the debacle of the country. Thugs of the de facto military regime schemed attempts on his life which eventually forced him to seek refuge in Florida on May 20th, 1994.
In Palm Beach where he resides, Ralph has worked as a social worker and ran a successful evidence-based early literacy program until September of 2011.
On average, Ralph gives 10 speeches a year addressing statewide students’ conferences, professional associations, symposia, congregations, civic groups, fundraisers, and campus students clubs. Among other places, he has spoken at University of Pennsylvania, Florida International University, University of Central Florida, University at Buffalo, University of Florida, University of Miami and Palm Beach Community College.
A father of two, Ralph Cheriza holds a degree in journalism and political science.
WWOHD: What is the goal of the Haitian Empowerment Foundation?
Ralph Cheriza: The Haitian Empowerment Foundation was established in 2004 as a nonprofit organization to provide “wide ranging resources” to Haitian students with unmet needs. The organization strives to be a “sustainable organization” able to meet various needs of the community.
The organization recently expanded its mission to include a “Haiti project” that addresses the need for quality education and disaster awareness. The organization is raising money to build disaster proof state of the art community schools on donated land in rural areas and called for a new and innovative curriculum that meet societal needs.
WWOHD: What are some of the organization’s recent activities?
RC: The foundation hosted a Haiti Education Forum at Lynn University in June 2011 to brainstorm on effective strategies to transform Haiti’s school. A report on that forum was released to the public at the organization’s gala on June 9th, 2012.
The foundation hosted a series of group trauma counseling session to assist victims in coping with the aftermath of the earthquake.
The foundation assists students of unemployed Haitians and survivors of the earthquake with book bags, school supplies, haircuts, physicals . . . to facilitate their return to school. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded $30,000.00 worth of scholarships to deserving Haitian students.
WWOHD: When you’re not working on achieving the Foundation’s goals, what are your hobbies?
RC: [Laughs] Good one. I read and write. I am actually working on a book on my experience with the Haitian crisis. I enjoy moonlight walk on the beach, poetry and movies.
WWOHD: You are located in West Palm Beach. Tell us about the regular educational and cultural activities geared toward the Haitian community there (not only the Foundation’s activities, but other regular events as well)
RC: The school district of Palm Beach County hosts a Haitian heritage month in May where activities are held to showcase Haitian heritage and culture.
Sunfest is the largest waterfront festival in Palm Beach county hosted annually during the first week of May. A Haitian band is always featured.