On January 12th, a earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 hit Haiti 10 miles west of the capital of Port-au-Prince. Death toll predictions of this historic disaster has been estimated to around 200,000. As of January 17th, United States Agency for International Development estimated the death toll at 65,000. Thousands of buildings including shanties, hospitals, schools, the presidential palace, and residences have been destroyed by the earthquake and its aftershocks. Because the Haitian government has been depleted by death and injury, coordination of relief efforts has been hampered.
I frequently receive email affirmations that offer spiritual positivity for the day. The first thing I do at work is check my email, so it’s refreshing to get my daily affirmation to start the morning off right. Here’s the affirmation I received the day after the earthquake:
Say to yourself: My infinite spirit that cannot be broken, greets the infinite spirit in the people of Haiti who have suffered devastating circumstances before and will survive again.
In tragedies, the first question that comes to mind is: What can I do? For me and many other humanitarians, service workers, activists, educators, and social service advocates, situations like this bring this question to heart, and we are suddenly stricken with the need to move and act as soon as possible on the pending issue at hand.
Today, I dedicate my blog to the people of Haiti. Haiti has proven in the past her ability to survive, and hopefully American officials will stand in support to help her and not imperialize the people. After a week of reflection on the aftermath of Haiti, and after a weekend of service on behalf of Martin Luther King for Haiti’s benefit, I gathered some research and listed some ways below to help Haiti both in a financial and education way. I thank my friends at Paper Clips Communications for sending me some resources to share with all of you.
How to Help Links
• Partners in Health has been working on the ground in Haiti for 20 years—donate online at www.standwithhaiti.org/haiti
• CNN provides How to Help links at www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/01/13/haiti.earthquake.how.to.help/index.html
• ABC’s “Good Morning America” provides links to various organizations responding to the crisis in Haiti and seeking assistance—http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/HaitiEarthquake/haitiearthquake-donate-vi...
• Larry King offers links divided into organizations providing medical aid, food, shelter and basic needs, plus a list of organizations that you can text with donations—www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2007/impact/
InterAction: A United Voice for Global Action offers recommendations on the most appropriate ways people can help at http://www.interaction.org/how-help
11 Things Schools and Educators Can Do
1. Host a Teach-in
Teach-ins—where schools gather their resources to create educational moments surrounding a
tragedy—have become a popular, effective campus response to help people make sense of emergencies and disasters.
Tap into campus experts from campus ministry, the faculty, student affairs and more
Focus on topics such as:
• peacekeeping efforts
• earthquake recovery
• economic ramifications
• the role of churches and faith
• rebuilding infrastructure
• the culture, history and politics of Haiti
• disaster relief
Teach-ins allow schools to use their strongest assets—educated, caring, informed individuals—to help students and other campus community members learn more about an issue beyond what CNN provides.
2. Unify & Focus Campus Efforts
As campus community members strive to respond to the disaster in Haiti, you want to be careful
about duplication of efforts and groups working on top of one another.
• Help student organizations to organize their efforts
• Create an outreach effort that’s easy to access and understand
• Tie some relief efforts into existing programs (i.e. sporting events, Valentine’s Day, service efforts, etc.)
At the University of Georgia, they have created a group called Dawgs for Haiti (in recognition of
their bulldog mascot) to raise money and are branding the effort by using a royal blue ribbon –
to recognize the blue in the Haitian flag – as the face of the campaign. They’ve created a specific website dedicated to their efforts (http://dawgsforhaiti.uga.edu/
) where people can go for updated information and to donate money through an online system, with proceeds going to the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders. And Dawgs for Haiti has a catchy pledge: $50,000 for 50,000 – referring to their fundraising goal in honor of the at least 50,000 people presumed dead in Haiti. And at NC State, the student government is closely communicating with leaders of student groups on campus so all funds raised can go into a collective pot. They’ve called their movement Howl for Haiti and will raise funds for Stop Hunger Now. Their first large-scale effort will be to collect fund and raise awareness at the upcoming NC State/ Duke basketball game.
3. Keep Folks in the Loop
It’s just a natural cause and effect that people are more likely to get involved if they feel included. So, address the campus community regularly to let them know what’s happening.
• Communication is key!
• Address the entire campus community regarding what your institution is doing
• Provide updated information from the president, like the U. of Arizona did:
Since all students may not yet be back on campus, get them up to speed when they return so they feel included and involved – provide some sort of “Haiti: How We’re Helping” primer via Facebook, Twitter, your homepage, RAs or other student leaders. Nothing makes a campus feel more like a unified community than sharing information and efforts to help another community.
4. Provide Opportunities for the Community to Come Together in Supportive Ways
When something awful like the disaster in Haiti occurs, people are often looking for emotional outlets to help them feel less hopeless and more engaged. By coordinating opportunities for your community to come together, you’re helping to meet those needs.
What will meet the needs of your community?
• Academic focus like a Teach-in
• A vigil of some sort—religious or otherwise—like they’ve done at USC and Princeton
• Discussion forums
Who will coordinate? A committee? A student group?
Are you okay with an event being less than perfect?
5. Focus on Water Issues
It can be overwhelming to know where to begin with educational efforts, especially when it comes to a situation as politically, economically, culturally and human-centered as the disaster in Haiti. You and your students may be able to start with one issue, such as water. It plays such an important part in the disaster relief spectrum, as getting potable water to the earthquake victims is currently a major push.
• Raise awareness about one issue at a time, such as water
• Distribute info like that in the box
• Host “Water Stands” as one way to spread the word—they’re similar to lemonade stands.
• Hand out cups of clean water with an educational message to raise awareness.
Maybe consider collecting money for each cup, as you would at a lemonade stand, to raise funds, too.
6. Prepare for Future Efforts
Pretty soon, the people of Haiti and the disaster relief efforts won’t be making front-page news anymore. Yet, Haiti has such a long way to go to recovery and it’s important to stay aware.
• Think about what happens once Haiti is moved out of the news cycle
How can you keep this situation in your institution’s collective consciousness?
• Future service trips to Haiti in conjunction with an appropriate receiving organization
• Ongoing awareness efforts about topics like international aid, disaster relief, peace building efforts, etc.
• What this means over the long haul
Many of us jump to attention in the throes of crisis, yet follow-up and continued attention over
the long haul is often a mark of our institution’s character and care.
7. Attempt to Address the Needs of Enrolled Haitian Students
As it is likely that Haitian students’ communication with home will be disrupted for some time,
institutions may want to consider the following:
• Provide additional time for the payment of bills associated with education
• Work with your food service provider. Food service scholarships may be available for the
duration of the crisis.
• Provide emotional/spiritual support in the form of counseling
• Assist these students in contacting family in Haiti
And also consider providing each Haitian student with one person on campus as his/her primary
university contact rather then referring him/her to multiple campus offices.
8. Consider Partnering with Reputable Relief Agencies
Develop university accounts so student organizations may deposit funds raised. This will also aid the university in conducting an audit of funds raised and dispensed. A listing of reputable relief organizations is available at www.charitywatch.org/hottopics/Haiti.html
• Universities may also wish to utilize those organizations with which they have partnered in the past.
9. Make Counseling Available to All Members of the Campus Community
Crises of this magnitude will likely affect members of the campus community other than those
directly impacted. Feelings of fear, depression, anxiety etc. can be common and counseling services will likely be needed.
• Have counselors available in advertised locations
• Make arrangements for drop in counseling sessions
• Consider developing opportunities for facilitated group discussion with counselors in attendance.
Residence hall and student center lounges are appropriate locations for this type of program.
10. Reach Out to Community Members & Alumni Who May be Impacted by the Crisis or Want to Help in Some Way
The strength of the institution is in its community. In times of crisis all members of the community may be looking for information and ways they can help. Here are some suggested ways to reach out:
• Emails or website updates for alumni and parents that keep them current on both the institution’s Haitian relief efforts and any additional news may be both helpful and appreciated.
• Contact any Haitian alumni still living in the country and offer counseling and other support services.
11. Identify an Office to Coordinate Your Campus Response to the Disaster in Haiti
Shenandoah U. (VA) has identified the Office of Spiritual Life as the office in charge of its response to the Haitian Crisis (www.su.edu/2496451235004EA8990F9486E648BFC9.asp
Benefits to this level of organization include the following:
• Providing a central contact for all students and student organizations, staff and alumni
• Providing one contact for all media inquiries
• By identifying a responsible office the institution is communicating