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Helping Haiti

January 29, 2010

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Haiti is in desperate need of aid. Perhaps the saddest, but clearest comment on the devastation caused by the January 12 earthquake was made by Guiteau Jean-Pierre, director of the Haitian Red Cross, who said that his organization had stopped counting the dead. Official casualty reports vary; as many as 200,000 people are believed to have been killed – most buried beneath their homes in the capital city of Port-au-Prince – and hundreds of thousands of others were injured. Millions of survivors are now homeless, without family, or both.

One day before the earthquake, Assistant Professor of Biology Pascal Lafontant watched a television program about wealthy investors traveling to Haiti. Lafontant and his family had emigrated from Haiti when he was 18. At that time, people only left the country. But following decades of corrupt governments and crippling trade embargoes, the international community was beginning to invest in Haiti's future.

“There was a growing sense of optimism in Haiti in the last year or so,” Lafontant says. “You could argue that Haiti was on a path to recovery. … I saw this program and thought, maybe things are turning around.”

A day later, Haitians were fighting for their survival.

In the weeks that have passed since the earthquake, relief organizations operating in Haiti have worked hard to keep up with the need for their services. Donations from around the world continue to help feed, house and treat the injuries of countless Haitians.

The DePauw community has not been absent in these efforts. During the men’s and women’s basketball games on Jan. 22, DePauw athletic gear and gift certificates from local restaurants were sold in a silent auction, and spectators were able to make per-point pledges based on the final scores of the games. Nearly $1,300 was raised that night and will be divided between the American Red Cross and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

Thanks to the work of organizers such as Sadie McGraw '10 and Director of Residence Life and Housing Julia Sutherlin, fund-raising and awareness events will continue throughout the spring semester. Two events are currently scheduled:

In Support of Haiti: A Service of Solidarity will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 4:00 PM in Meharry Hall. Speakers will include individuals who have recently returned from Haiti. The service is open to everybody.

Hope for Haiti: Karaoke Night at the Duck is tentatively scheduled for the night of Wednesday, Feb. 17 at the Walden Inn. Karaoke will be available for a $1 per song donation, and organizers are arranging student “service” auctions throughout the evening. A portion of the food and drink sales from the event will also be donated to relief organizations.

Anybody who is interested in continued Haiti relief planning is encouraged to attend the first campus meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 4:00 PM in the Union Building Fishbowl.

“This isn't a 'one-and-done, send the check and move' on kind of deal,” McGraw says. “Julia Sutherlin reminded us that as urgently as Haitians need help right now, they are going to need help to rebuild for months and years to come.”

For those who are unable to attend the campus events, there are a variety of ways to contribute to the relief efforts in Haiti. Christine DiGangi '11, who is on a Media Fellows internship with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), recommends donating money instead of sending supplies due to the destruction of many of Haiti's ports and transportation hubs. DiGangi is currently helping to manage the WFP's Students Helping Haiti campaign, which provides both a Haiti relief resource center and a way for student fund-raising groups to filter donations to a specific cause.

Listed below are some secure and easy ways to donate money that will go towards food, supplies and medical services for Haitians in need.

Ways to Donate

Via the Web

Via text messaging (Added to phone bill. Most mobile carriers accepted.)

For more on DePauw's response to the earthquake in Haiti, please read President Brian W. Casey's January 15 announcement.

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