Thursday, January 29, 2004

Business adviser to Haitians uses what he learned

By William A.Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOVELAND - When Rob Miller graduated from the University of Colorado in 2002 with an economics degree, he wanted real-world experience.

So, he joined the Peace Corps.

Such an experience would let him help people and "apply the (economic) principles and formulas I studied," said Miller, 24, during a brief visit with his parents in Loveland recently.

The 1997 Cincinnati Country Day graduate initially wanted an assignment to Eastern Europe. "How does Haiti sound?" Peace Corps officials suggested.

And so, on Feb. 18, 2002, Miller stepped off a plane in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, - one of the poorest countries in the world.

His assignment was teaching business skills, a two-year commitment at minimum. Now, Miller is a Peace Corps adviser and instructor to Haitians trying to start businesses.

For example, explaining the basics of supply and demand helped peanut commodity buyers improve their profit margins, he said.

"Buy when the prices are low and store them (until the off season)," when prices doubled, was his advice.

He also teaches accounting principles and "very basic'" business procedures, like how to fill out a receipt. "This is microeconomics in its most basic form," he said.

Miller instructs in a Creole dialect.

He lives in the same conditions as resident Haitians.

"I have neither electricity nor running water," Miller said, describing his two-room, cement-block residence with dirt floors. "To bathe, I collect rain water" from the roof.

His furnishings are minimal - a double bed with a mosquito net, a small bedside table, cabinet and a kerosene lamp. He cooks on an open fire and the toilet is outdoors.

His home is surrounded by a local garbage dump.

Despite their country's poverty, Haitians have a positive outlook on life, Miller said.

"Haitians love to laugh and joke around. For all its poverty and suffering, it's still a very gentle culture. Our poverty (in the United States) would be considered middle class in Haiti."

The Peace Corps experience is just what he hoped for after college, Miller said. "It's provided me the opportunity to see how another culture works, and how they (the Haitians) view the United States," he said. "You meet remarkable people."


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