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LDS Haitian man gets a 2nd chance at education

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PORT-AU-PRINCE — Earthquake survivor Daniel Delva looks past his humble circumstances in Port-Au-Prince and instead chooses to dream about his future. Delva will be studying mechanical engineering this week at Weber State University in Ogden thanks to a foundation of anonymous California- and Utah-based donors who will cover his school expenses.

"My dream is to help rebuild Haiti," said Delva. "I want to be able to invest back into my country and repay the kindness that has been shown to me".

Delva grew up impoverished and without a father in the largest city in Haiti. On Jan. 12, a 7.0 earthquake tore down much of the country's Third-World-quality dwellings killing tens of thousands in the process. Within days, many organizations, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sent medical teams to assist the victims. The doctors, nurses and medical personnel set up clinics and performed surgeries at the area hospitals. Delva, a 27-year-old devoted LDS Church member and returned missionary, volunteered to drive and interpret for the medical teams.

"Daniel was such a gregarious person and made friends so easily with the team," said Dr. Jeremy Booth, an emergency room physician at Ogden's McKay-Dee Hospital and a member of the medical team in Haiti. After Delva asked about a possible sponsorship to America, Booth started looking into the possibilities of getting him here.

"I didn't know how to do it," said Booth, "so I just started making calls."

Enter the several anonymous donors and friends of the foundation set up by Mike Ward, who served an LDS mission to Haiti. Ward says Delva was a natural fit for funding provided by the foundation.

"You can't make a difference to everyone, but we wanted to make a difference to this one person," said Ward. "We want to help Daniel because he wants to make his life better and make Haiti better. We want to see him succeed."

Delva will leave his mother, Elimise, and younger sister Daniela on Wednesday to register for classes in Ogden. His happy mother's simple advice was, "Study hard, be kind, and then find a beautiful woman. God bless America. "

"I will do my very best to satisfy your investment in me," Delva wrote in a recent e-mail to Booth. "You'll never be disappointed."

e-mail: jallred@desnews.com