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Former UNV volunteers among Haiti dead

Former UNV volunteers Emily Sanson-Rejouis (centre left) and Emmanuel Rejouis (centre right) with the then head of the UNV Support Office Kevin Gilroy (left) and UNV Chief of Support Services Wolfgang Fischer (right) at the UNV office in East Timor in 1999. Emmanuel died in the Haiti earthquake on 12 January 2010. (Photo: UNV)Former UNV volunteers Emily Sanson-Rejouis (centre left) and Emmanuel Rejouis (centre right) with the then head of the UNV Support Office Kevin Gilroy (left) and UNV Chief of Support Services Wolfgang Fischer (right) at the UNV office in East Timor in 1999. Emmanuel died in the Haiti earthquake on 12 January 2010. (Photo: UNV)
19 January 2010

Bonn, Germany: The family of two former UNV volunteers has been hit by tragedy following the Haiti earthquake. New Zealand media report that Emmanuel Rejouis, who had volunteered with UNV in Rwanda, Central Africa, Nigeria, South Africa and East Timor, died along with two of his young daughters.

Emmanuel is survived by his wife Emily Sanson-Rejouis, a New Zealand national and also a former UNV volunteer, and their youngest daughter Alyahna. Emily and Alyahna have been evacuated from Haiti and are now with family members.

Mr. Rejouis, a Haitian national who had broad experience with the UN as an information officer and electoral observer, was killed protecting two-year-old Alyahna when the Karibe Hotel in Port-au-Prince collapsed.

Kevin Gilroy, who headed the UNV Support Office with the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) is now Chief of Special Operations at UNV. Emily and Emmanuel were both assigned to his office during the 1999 popular consultation in East Timor (now Timor-Leste).

"I have no words to express the sadness that I and all who knew Emmanuel and Emily and their beautiful family feel," said Mr. Gilroy. "Emmanuel was a man who loved life, and had an infectious smile and presence at all times.

"Both he and Emily genuinely cared about the people and places they worked in, and they were deeply in love with each other and their children," continued Mr. Gilroy. "I can only ask that all who knew 'Em and Em', as we all called them, keep Emily, Alyahna, and their families deep in their thoughts and prayers. It is just devastating.”

Emily met Emmanuel while they were both on UNV volunteer election assignments in Nigeria. They later worked together in South Africa, also with UNV, continuing with UNV in East Timor. Emily was working as an international staff member of the MINUSTAH mission in Haiti when the disaster struck.

In his original application to become a UNV volunteer, Emmanuel wrote that he was attracted by the opportunities for personal growth, and "to actively participate in the constant struggle that bettering the human condition represents." He had previously worked at an NGO in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Emily and Emmanuel have always been really involved in helping people," Emily Sanson-Rejouis's step-sister Caroline Larnach told The New Zealand Herald. The newspaper said that the family has set up a special bank account for people offering help and support after the disaster.

The UNV family deeply mourns for all the Haitian people, UN staff and UNV volunteers affected by the earthquake. A number of current UNV volunteers in Haiti are still unaccounted for, and UNV is doing everything possible to find information.

An electronic condolences page has been created as a mark of respect and to honour the lives of current and former UNV volunteers who lost their lives. The disaster killed more than 100,000 Haitians, plus many people working with the United Nations in the country. We deeply mourn them all.

UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)