U.S. Colleges, Universities Offer Rapid Relief Responses to Haiti

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by Peter Galuszka

At the University of Virginia, news of the earthquake in Haiti on Tuesday struck home.

Stephanie Jean-Charles, a 22-year-old Haitian graduate student at UVa.’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy who worked in Haiti, died Tuesday of head injuries at her family’s home in Port-au-Prince.

         ”This is a real tragedy for us,” says university spokesman Dan Heuchert, adding that the school plans a memorial service Thursday and is coordinating its own relief project.

          Similar relief responses are being replicated at schools throughout the country, notably at historically Black colleges and universities. Faculty and students are raising money for CARE and other relief groups, gathering nonperishable food and clothing, planning their own medical care trips to Haiti and holding teach-ins.

         The Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta has established a fund to provide relief via the Atlanta office of CARE. Also, the school plans to send its medical faculty to Haiti in coming days although plans haven’t been finalized, says spokeswoman Cherie Richardson. The school has close ties to the Caribbean country. Its International Health Council organizes six-day medical missions to Haiti that allow faculty and students to help with medical care and public health issues.

          Meanwhile, Morehouse College has formed a Haitian Relief Effort that will collect food, toiletries, towels, clothing and pain relievers. “We’ve got quite a bit going on,” says spokesman Add Seymour Jr.

           At Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, senior school management has said the school will match all aid donations dollar for dollar for a total of $25,000, according to new sources.

          On Wednesday, Howard University in Washington, D.C. held a memorial service for Haitian victims at the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel. Students and faculty are coordinating relief donations through the American Red Cross.

          Besides providing aid, schools are using the tragedy as a teaching tool. Florida International University in Miami plans a teach-in on Haiti on Saturday. Six scholars will discuss earthquake recovery, the impact of the crisis on far-flung Haitian émigrés and how Haiti’s infrastructure can be rebuilt.

           News accounts note that the relief efforts for the tragedy, which may have killed 50,000, have been hamstrung by delays in landing cargo aircraft and Haiti’s damaged roads and communications. The crisis could stir greater attention in the U.S. to Haiti’s problems.

         UVa. Director of Emergency Preparedness Marjorie Sidebottom, who is coordinating the school’s relief response, has been in contact with the White House, Heuchert says.

           Jean-Charles’ death has Batten School students and faculty stunned. She received her bachelor’s degrees in French and foreign affairs in May and was studying public policy on the graduate level.

         Batten School Dean Dr. Harry Harding praised Jean-Charles in an e-mail as a hard worker who took up challenges with “enormous energy and commitment.”

 

 

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