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DePauw students continuing efforts to aid Haiti quake victims

Monday, March 1, 2010

DePauw University students Chelsea Gartner, left, Emily Pence and Ellen Clayton help take donations during a Haiti benefit at the university.
GREENCASTLE -- Seven weeks have passed since a since a catastrophic earthquake struck the island nation of Haiti.

After the Jan. 12 disaster, which was followed by 52 measurable aftershocks that occurred over a 10-day period, images of the aftermath saturated the Internet, television and newspapers. The quake affected approximately 3 million people; over 200,000 were killed and at least 1 million were left homeless. A quarter of a million homes and 30,000 commercial buildings were destroyed or damaged.

As the days and weeks have passed, the news coverage of the horrific earthquake has waned. News outlets have produced fewer and fewer stories about the victims.

But across the United States and throughout the world, efforts to assist those affected by the earthquake continue -- and a group of dedicated DePauw students can be counted among those still working to lend a helping hand.

In January, DePauw launched a Hope for Haiti campaign. A group of students has organized several fundraising events, and more are planned.

"As a student, it's very difficult to find free time to get involved, but I think as DePauw students we prioritize and contribute our time to causes that really mean something to us," said DePauw senior and political science major Molly Nolden, who promotes awareness for Hope for Haiti. "The disaster in Haiti really struck a chord with me not only because of the devastation that occurred, but because of the instability in the country beforehand. After attending the first couple DePauw Haiti relief meetings, I was also inspired by the motivation and compassion of my peers that were working on Haiti relief. A few of the students in the group have direct connections to Haiti and they have really helped to bring insight and perspective into the relief efforts, and they've also served as motivators since they have a true understanding of the struggle that Haiti is facing right now."

To date, the group has raised nearly $3,000.

"Our first event was a silent auction back in January during a basketball game," said Julia Sutherlin, DePauw's director of residence life and housing. Sutherlin has been the faculty advisor for the Hope for Haiti initiative.

"We also had a pledge-a-point, where people pledged a certain amount of money for each point the basketball teams scored," Sutherlin said. "We made $1,200 just on that." Sadie McGraw, a senior English writing major at DePauw, has worked extensively with organizing Hope for Haiti events.

"We had a Hope for Haiti karaoke night, and we started a competition," she said. "We're going to have another one. We contacted (DePauw) President Brian Casey, and asked him if we would be able to use someplace on campus for a pizza party for the group who raised the most money. He actually offered up a pool party at his house, so whatever organization raises the most money will have a pool party at President Casey's house."

That first karaoke night netted $850, McGraw said.

In addition to fundraising events, the group also organized a Service of Solidarity on Feb. 10.

"That wasn't a fundraiser; it was a time when people could come together and lift up the people of Haiti through meditation and prayer," Sutherlin said.

The group also organized an educational session on Haiti. The session, Sutherlin said, was aimed at giving attendees and opportunity to learn about the country of Haiti and its culture.

"It was a chance for people to see beyond the devastation of the earthquake and to learn about Haiti's history," she said.

Nolden agreed.

"In planning our events, we have been trying to focus on a mix of effective fundraising as well as education and awareness of the situation in Haiti," she said. "We want to draw out as many people as possible, whether they are DePauw students, faculty or other Greencaslte residents. It is easy for most people to contribute a dollar or two to a cause, but we want to make sure that people are challenged to really think about why there is such a drastic need. So for every event we have try to emphasize both the fundraising and education components. We also want to make sure that this is an ongoing project, because the need for relief will still be great even after the country attains some degree of stability."

Senior art history major Chelsea Gardner stressed that the Hope for Haiti initiative isn't really an organized group or club.

"It's more like a volunteer committee," she said. "Anyone can come and help."

The most recent Hope for Haiti event, a silent auction and benefit concert featuring local musicians, was held Friday evening at the Lilly Center on the DePauw campus. That event raised $983.

Charles Pierre, a DePauw sophomore studying psychology and French, was born and spent most of his childhood in Haiti. He left Haiti when he was sophomore in high school, but returns to visit twice a year.

"I do have many friends and family still down there; my parents still live there and my father was down there the day of the earthquake," Pierre said. "I actually lost a few friends to the earthquake."

Pierre said his family "is very excited about DePauw's efforts to help the Haitian people."

"They can't understand how total strangers who are not personally connected to the country can have such deep care for them and their well being," Pierre said. "I tell them that's the American experience -- helping others while they're down.

"As a Haitian, I feel indebted to each person who has helped organize, plan and donate to our Hope For Haiti organization," Pierre continued. "It takes a truly good hearted person to go out of their way to help a country thousands or hundreds of miles away that you've never visited. I speak for all Haitians and say that I am truly thankful for all of DePauw's efforts. Seeing the huge turnouts to our events is consoling, especially after you've lost friends and family."

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Ask someone from the Dominican Republic about Haiti...

-- Posted by Rasputin on Mon, Mar 1, 2010, at 1:51 PM

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