Local colleges get into relief efforts
Students donate time and money at UM and FIU
Arielle Duperval was driving in Haiti on Jan. 12 when the earth began to shake.
Just a half minute later, the Haitian-American and two of her University of Miami classmates got out of their car to see the destruction. But the young women also witnessed heroism, as survivors risked their own lives to save others trapped under the rubble.
A junior at UM majoring in international studies, Duperval is one of many college students around South Florida, as well as the rest of the United States, participating in relief efforts.
As a current student, she had to come back to South Florida to continue her studies. But, she realized her help with the relief efforts was not finished.
“I could do more with resources here in the United States rather than what was and would be available in Haiti,” she said.
Duperval, a New York native of Haitian descent, has been working very closely with UM’s Haitian Student Organization, organizing bake sales and group prayers, to raise funds benefitting Haiti. The student body’s reaction has been encouraging to the HSO.
“With a lot of us directly affected by the earthquake, plans are slowly but surely developing to see how we can assist Haiti in moving forward,” Duperval said.
At Florida International University, the Haitian Student Organization continues to work to bring relief. This month, the HSO organized a footwear drive “for all the shoeless people in Haiti,” said HSO special events coordinator Rudy Rich.
To raise money for Haiti, FIU’s Student Government Association launched the “Dollar-per-Student” campaign on Haitian Flag Day, May 18. The movement, running until May of next year, is meant to have each student donate one dollar toward relief – an initiative designed to raise about $40,000.
Both FIU faculty and staff have also been participating, and Columbus Networks, a Miami-based telecommunications service provider, has agreed to match up to $25,000 of the donations.
So far, the school has raised $4,200.
Once they’ve reached their goal, the SGA plans to meet with other student groups at FIU involved with relief efforts and “work it out so we can fund as much as possible,” SGA Vice President Nick Autiello said.
UM students, on the other hand, have been leading many relief efforts under the name “‘Canes Helping Haiti.” In addition, counselors are available at UM to help anyone who has been affected by the earthquake, whether it be a student, faculty or staff member.
For medical treatment, Dr. Michel Dodard of the department of family health and community medicine at UM’s Miller School of Medicine has been working with patients in Haiti, often those needing amputations.
The earthquake prompted amputations for 2,000 to 4,000 Haitians, and many of the patients Dodard saw had infections from those amputations.
In April, UM’s Robert Gailey, rehabilitation coordinator of Project Medishare, started an effort to aid survivors of the earthquake by donating prosthetic legs.
So far, they’ve given prosthetics to close to 40 people, according to Gailey, and they send new ones every Saturday.
“[We want to] help them to return to work and sports,” Gailey said.
Dodard, who is Haitian-American, sometimes was overwhelmed by seeing many of his childhood memories in ruins.
“I was going back to a place I spent [about] 17 years of my life,” Dodard said.
However, he still felt that as a professional as well as a Haitian-American, it was his duty to help patients.
Duperval has the same state of mind and she hopes to return to Haiti at the end of July. But she knows how hard it will be.
“I have been a bit disappointed,” Duperval said. “I was very optimistic in the initial stages but then you realize there is so much red tape you have to go through in order to get things done.”
Duperval, as well as many other students involved in the Haitian student organizations at UM and FIU, was directly affected by the earthquake.
She feels that the trauma she experienced may have altered her state of mind and inhibited her from doing all that she could have done in the “prime time” of the aftermath of the earthquake.
Six months later, however, Haiti is still in need of any help that can be offered.
UM’s Miller medical school plans to continue helping by recruiting volunteer medical personnel, especially those who speak Creole. Haiti remains in a serious need for surgeons, specialists, pediatricians and general doctors and nurses.
Dodard, for instance, has joined forces with his brother-in-law, Dr. Daniel Henrys, to take care of patients at the Rue Lamarre Clinic in Haiti, where many of the volunteers have been medical students.
“It was different from what you would see on CNN,” Dodard said.
He saw more than the wounds they showed on television. People with illnesses before the earthquake and minor trauma were not being handled by the larger hospitals. Immunizations and psychological traumas were also neglected.
Dodard and Henrys, along with the volunteers, provided medical attention in places that desperately needed it besides Port-Au-Prince; they’ve done work in places that were getting none or very little help, such as the neighborhoods of Champ de Mars, Kafou Fey, and Bel Air.
While UM has been helping Haiti in terms of medicine, FIU has been helping Haiti in terms of culture.
Two FIU faculty members, Carol Damian and Stephanie Chancy, teamed up to open the Frost art exhibit on May 26.
The exhibit will not be raising funds for relief, but Chancy and Damian hope to tour the exhibit to raise awareness of what’s going on in Haiti. Should the exhibit go on tour, they would charge a fee and use the money on Haitian art conservation efforts.
The art museums in Haiti were destroyed by the earthquake, and much of their exhibits have been lost.
“There was a tremendous loss of art in addition to tremendous loss of life,” Chancy said.
The FIU exhibit is meant to re-establish this lost culture, Damian said, by housing more than 400 works.
Chancy did not want art that would reinforce the stereotype that Haiti is a troubled and damaged place.
“We wanted the exhibit to be about life, rebirth, and fertility… [We wanted to] show Haiti in a different light,” she said.
“They are culturally rich even if they are monetarily poor.”