Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GU Community Mobilizes for Haiti

Caribbean Culture Circle President Anthony Peña (SFS '10) leads a vigil on Jan. 15.
Caribbean Culture Circle President Anthony Peña (SFS ’10) leads a vigil on Jan. 15.

While no members of the university community have been reported lost or injured as a result of the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, the university community has mobilized to raise funds for the recovery effort.


The natural disaster, which is estimated to have killed over 100,000 people, strikes home for several Georgetown students, faculty and staff members who have lost family and friends.




Valarie Craan (COL ’11), who was born and raised in Port-au-Prince until her move to Florida at age 16, has a personal stake in the catastrophe. While she knows that her family and friends are safe, the devastation of her home country is widespread. She briefly spoke to her cousin Cedric over a spotty Internet connection and was relieved to hear he was safe, although he was running out of food and water.




Craan is coping with the immensity of the destruction in her homeland.




“Whenever I didn’t feel at home [in the United States] I always thought `Oh, I have Haiti, which is so stress-free and happy. I can go back.’ Now I can’t. My fear is that it will never be the same,” she said.




Following the tragedy, the university community assembled to contribute to relief efforts and support the Haitian presence on campus. An interfaith prayer vigil organized by the Caribbean Culture Circle and Campus Ministry held on Jan. 15 commemorated the victims and called for solidarity in the time of crisis. Marta Rifin (COL ’10), a Haitian student, moved many in the crowd of over 80 people to tears with her rendition of Haiti’s national anthem, which she sang in Creole.




“I thank everyone for being out here in the cold and showing their love. I am Haitian, and this tragedy is more than just a national headline. It’s my nation . I’m so blessed to see you all here. It means a lot,” Rifin said.




At the vigil, University President John J. DeGioia spoke of the need for continued action.




“We offer our deepest sympathies, as none of us can ever comprehend the magnitude of this tragedy . Even as our hearts have reached out, let us give all that we can. Let us in this moment answer the call to be women and men for others.”




Some of the fundraising efforts on campus started at the Jan. 15 vigil. The CCC placed boxes in front of the Healy steps at the vigil, and those boxes of donations combined with the collections taken from the men’s and women’s basketball games this weekend totaled over $1,390.




CCC has several other fundraising projects in the works, including a blood drive for the Red Cross, as well as talk of recruiting Wyclef Jean for Georgetown’s spring concert.




Anthony Peña (SFS ’10), president of CCC, said the efforts of the university community have been outstanding, yet stressed the need for a long-term commitment to relief in Haiti.




“This is a longstanding effort that takes a collective effort to aid in recovery. The [CCC] and Georgetown both need to actively continue this effort for future years. There is much more work to be done,” Peña said.




Immediately after the earthquake, university leaders charged the Center for Social Justice with organizing students in response to the tragedy, similar to when it mobilized in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Suzanne Tarlov, associate director of the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service at CSJ, put together a donation Web page that has been linked to a bank account. So far, CSJ has received $15,415 in online donations and also has received a $10,000 check. All proceeds will be divided among three charitable organizations: Jesuit Refugee Service, Save the Children and Partners in Health.




Other efforts that the CSJ is organizing include a push to place more donation boxes at various Corp locations and at the Georgetown University Medical Center.




Tarlov stated that a group of students from the Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network at Georgetown is discussing a possible humanitarian relief trip this summer. She also detailed plans for several graduate students to form an educational panel consisting of experts on Haiti who could explain its history and culture, giving the Georgetown community a greater understanding of the earthquake’s impact.




Tarlov emphasized the impressiveness of the Georgetown student body’s response to the earthquake.




“Students should feel proud that they are a part of Georgetown. I’ve been so impressed by the motivation of these students and their desire to help others. It’s truly heartwarming and unique to Georgetown in particular,” Tarlov said.




The GUSA Finance and Appropriations Committee passed a bill, proposed by Sen. Nichol Nelson-Goedert (COL ’10), to donate $1,000 to the CSJ fund. The final legislation will be debated at the GUSA senate meeting on Jan. 24.




Other fundraising efforts include Georgetown College Academic Counselor Erin Curtin Force and several Georgetown College students’ tabling efforts outside of the College Dean’s office to raise money for relief efforts. Accumulating over $700 in two days, Force and her fellow fundraisers were thankful for the enthusiastic response.




“We just wanted to do something to help . The students who manned the table were thrilled to witness such kindness,” Force said.




The French department, after pledging $500, is also conducting a fund drive for earthquake relief in Haiti in conjunction with Helen Scarry, Roman Catholic chaplain of Campus Ministry.




“Because Haiti is a francophone country, the French department felt particularly compelled to show solidarity with those affected by the earthquake. Funds collected by the department will benefit the Religious of Jesus and Mary, a Roman Catholic Congregation of Sisters that has ministered in Haiti since 1997,” said Susanna Lee, associate professor in the French department.

In another fundraising event, the Georgetown Unconventional Eaters club is holding an authentic Haitian dinner Friday night to raise awareness and collect donations to support recovery in Haiti.




“We are now taking advantage of our love for food and transforming it into something that matters,” President of GUE Tory Pratt (SFS ’11) said.




Other campus clubs, such as Students Stopping the Trafficking of People and the Georgetown chapter of UNICEF, took immediate action, updating members with detailed e-mails and directing them to news links and donation opportunities. UNICEF has been tabling all week in Red Square, and according to UNICEF’s program director Susan O’Rourke (COL ’12), the Georgetown branch of the organization plans to inform members of the university community on the aftermath of the earthquake as the semester continues.




“UNICEF is committed to providing support to the people, especially the children of Haiti, not only through its immediate response, but also through its continued presence during the rebuilding period,” O’Rourke said.




Georgetown University Alumni & Student Federal Credit Union has established a Haiti Relief Fund, which allows students to transfer money to that account. The Student Commission for Unity is planning a silent art auction to raise funds. Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., executive director of Campus Ministry and his colleagues are preparing a Catholic Mass of Remembrance for the People of Haiti on Feb. 2 in Dahlgren Chapel.




Susan Martin, director of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, has also organized an academic panel, set to take place Jan. 28 in ICC Auditorium, at which panelists will discuss Haiti’s history, culture and its current state of affairs.




The Scholarships for Education and Economic Development Program, which runs through Georgetown University’s Center for Intercultural Education and Development, has been particularly affected by this earthquake. SEED recruits students from impoverished areas of the Caribbean and South and Central America, including Haiti, and equips them in the United States with technical and leadership skills at various community colleges for two years. After their schooling, the students return to their home countries with the education necessary to facilitate the improvement of their own communities.




The SEED coordinator in Haiti is unhurt, as are his two staff members. One staff member’s house collapsed as she was gardening in the backyard with her children, however.




According to SEED Director Paul Silva, 50 Haitian students currently study in the United States through SEED. Georgetown’s CIED is doing everything it can to assist these students; it has located 42 of the students’ families and continues to contact SEED alumni to check on their status. Silva said SEED hopes to set up several of its graduates in the humanitarian response teams like the NGOs that acted quickly in the earthquake’s aftermath.




Efforts on the Hilltop do not stop with current faculty, students and programs, however. Alonzo Mourning (COL ’92), former Georgetown basketball star, started The Athletes Relief Fund for Haiti with fellow NBA star Dwayne Wade. According to ESPN, it has already raised over $800,000 in pledges. Mourning is currently in Haiti surveying the target areas for such a fund.




Another alumnus, Jacques-Philippe Piverger (MSB ’99), launched The Haiti Project through his nonprofit organization, Global Syndicate. The Haiti Project aims to hold major fundraising events in six major U.S. cities and hopes to generate more than $500,000 for the cause.




Businesses in the surrounding Georgetown community are also actively pursuing Haitian relief efforts. Georgetown Cupcake raised $6,000 by donating all of its red velvet cupcake sales to Haiti relief on Jan. 13 and 14. Qdoba will donate 5 percent of its profits to Haiti relief from Jan. 18 to Jan. 24.




Today, several Georgetown area businesses are participating in Jefferson Prep’s fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders. With a $10 cover charge and encouraged donations, participants will receive food and drinks catered by Sweetgreen, Rugby Café, Chipotle, Georgetown Cupcake, and Vita Coco and live music provided by DJ Alex of MecTec.




The Kennedy Center is hosting, in partnership with the Embassy of Haiti, “An Evening for Haiti,” featuring Haitian performers and dancers tonight. The concert also features Georgetown’s “Let Freedom Ring” Celebration Choir and the National Symphony Orchestra. Proceeds of the event are directed to the Haitian relief effort. ”


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