Even since the nation of Haiti was decimated by a major earthquake, dedicated students and staff at St. Mary’s have been giving their time and resources to help those in need.
According to the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program, the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit on Jan. 12 just 15 miles west-southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital and largest city. Since then, over 150 thousand Haitians have been confirmed dead, and around 1.5 million remain without homes. Much of Haiti’s infrastructure has also been devastated, with food and clean water in scarce supply.
Since the earthquake, and subsequent 5.9-magnitude aftershock on Jan. 20, multiple student organizations on campus have begun mobilizing to gather and send support. According to senior Binta Diallo, Service and Social Change Programs Assistant, even before classes started for Spring 2010, she received multiple emails from students interested in whether or not something would be done to assist Haiti relief efforts. She added, “We kind of figured it was the responsibility of Service and Social Change to come up with some sort of project to help Haiti.”
Since then, the focus of their department has been on projects to directly contribute, primarily a gift certificate raffle that started Jan. 27 and will run until Feb. 10. “So many lives have been lost, and it’s an easy way to give back,” said Ashley Tomlin, Coordinator of Orientation and Service. So far, Service and Social Change has raised over $200, which will either be donated to the American Red Cross or Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti organization.
They are far from the only organization doing something for Haiti, however. Amnesty International, an organization known more for its efforts to garner awareness for ongoing genocides than its direct humanitarian aid, nevertheless held a bake sale for Haiti Jan. 27 and 28. Senior Ashleigh Dueker, president of the St. Mary’s chapter of Amnesty International (AI), said she was surprised by how receptive people were to donating, the financial situation of the average college student notwithstanding. In fact, in the two days of the sale AI raised over $70. Dueker added, “People were just giving us money. I really appreciated it. They really didn’t even care about the bake sale.”
Even campus stores such as the Campus Store, the Daily Grind, and the Green Bean have set up their own donation boxes in partnership with the SGA. Furthermore, students can donate through their One Cards, debit, or regular credit or debit cards through a purchase made at one of these locations. So far, this effort has raised $201 for the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund. Richard Wagner, director of the Campus Store, said, regarding the program, that “this has been a group effort and I think we have achieved good results.”
Although it has been almost a month since the Haiti earthquake, student efforts and support show no sign of slowing down. According to Tomlin, the Service and Social Change office is currently in the process of planning an entire benefits week to occur in late March or April, with all proceed going to Haiti relief. The Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) has also decided to donate proceeds this year from their annual Polar Bear Splash to the Haiti Green Project.