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University of Minnesota-Duluth professor's mom survived Haiti quake, wants to return

UMD associate music professor Rudy Perrault in Weber Music Hall this week. Perrault recently flew his Haitian mother to Duluth to recuperate from the effects of the Jan. 12 earthquake. Adeline Perrault hopes to return to the Caribbean country soon to help take care of earthquake victims. (Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune)

DULUTH -- When Adeline Perrault arrived in Duluth after enduring Haiti for 15 days after the earthquake, she slept for nearly 24 hours.

Perrault, mother to University of Minnesota Duluth associate music professor Jean "Rudy" Perrault, led an evacuation of the building she was about to enter in Port-au-Prince just before it collapsed Jan. 12.

She lost her home and almost everything in it, and she spent nights sleeping on the ground outside, disrupted by aftershocks. Though she was physically uninjured by the quake, she has psychological and emotional wounds, Rudy Perrault said this week. His mother declined to be interviewed.

"She has lost pretty much all of her friends; her network is gone," Perrault said, noting that while she helped some escape from the crumbling building where a church meeting was being held, most inside did not survive. "But she is determined to go back. I won one little battle in having her come here, but she is determined to win the war and go help."

She wants to return to help his sister, Anne-Kary Perrault, a child psychologist who helps run the Kako Foundation. That nonprofit agency is named for a cousin who was kidnapped and murdered in 2008 in Haiti. The foundation, of which Rudy Perrault is a founder, aims to teach at-risk kids to play musical instruments and keep them from turning to violence.

Since the earthquake, the foundation has shifted its focus to offer its students shelter and one meal a day in safe zones, and his sister is offering grief support and counseling, and working with schools.

"They're trying to provide activity for all the kids just swarming the streets right now," Perrault said.

Of the 38 music students, only 18 have been found. Three are confirmed dead and the others are missing or living on the streets, he said. The Kako Foundation, incorporated in Duluth in 2008, is accepting donations of money and tents for kids to sleep in and for classroom use once the rainy season sets in.

Perrault helped organize and performed in the College of St. Scholastica's benefit concert, "With You, Haiti Cherie," held Wednesday. St. Scholastica spokesman Bob Ashenmacher said 700 people attended and about $9,500 was raised for the Red Cross, Partners in Health and Catholic Relief Services.

Duluth's First Lutheran Church choir was among the performers, and it sang "How Can I Keep from Singing" in honor of Ben Larson, a Lutheran seminarian who died in the earthquake. His mother, April Ulring Larson, is pastor of the church.

Perrault, who still has friends unaccounted for in Haiti, is concerned about the trauma that may set in once his mother returns to Port-au-Prince. He hopes she'll stay in Duluth as long as possible to prepare for it. He also fears the long-term effects of the quake and what it has done to the future of Haiti. So many people died, and so many will leave the country because they won't live in rubble, he said.

"We're going to have a whole generation gap in our history," he said. "So many people ... gone."