In the days following the earthquake, as we accounted for all of the students, we began looking for opportunities for many students to study abroad, so they would miss as little school as possible. However, as the days passed and we saw the needs of the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the earthquake, we decided to concentrate on integrating our students into the relief efforts, rather than looking to send them away. To this end, we have placed 40 students in volunteer or paid positions, including all 16 medical students in their third year of study or above. Two med students are working at the University of Miami field hospital, and 5th-year med student Edmond Frantz, who was pulled from the rubble of the HELP center with a broken leg and subsequently operated on at the same hospital, now helps out with translation, hobbling after doctors and nurses on his crutches. Several med students are also volunteering at the golf and tennis club, whose grounds now house a camp of tens of thousands of refugees run by the US Army 82nd Airborne Division.
We also sent several students to a field clinic in Jacmel, set up by longtime HELP partner, Haitian Timoun Foundation. It is gratifying to see students that HTF has been sponsoring putting their new-found skills to work.
Six of our students have been working with the Red Cross for the past month, distributing health kits, blankets, tarps and the like to people living in refugee camps. Several civil engineering students are working in nearby cities, providing infrastructure for the tens of thousands of people who have migrated to these cities in the wake of the earthquake. Other students are working as translators, teachers and administrators, some even engaged in work for HELP, as we reconstitute all of our files and continue work on long-term projects that predate the quake.
While HELP students have been helping others, many of you have been helping HELP–we are greatly appreciative of the outpouring of condolences and support this past month. In addition to the many generous contributions, HELP supporters have organized fundraisers all over the country and beyond. Below is a sample of past and future events. If any of these are in your area, you might want to join the fun and meet other friends of HELP:
JANUARY 25th, Montpelier, VT: Friends gathered at the Three Penny Taproom to enjoy a selection of beers, with proceeds benefiting HELP. We send our heartfelt thanks to good friend Patrick Bryson, event organizer, and host Scott Kerner, a Taproom proprietor.
FEBRUARY 6, London, England: Three friends of Haiti and HELP, Tatiana Auguste, John Jepsen and Delphine Gardere, hosted an event “focusing on the beautiful sights, sounds, and tastes of Haiti.” John said, ” We had Haitian artwork, music, delicious food, and, of course, plenty of Barbancourt rum.”
FEBRUARY 11, Fort Collins, CO: Melissa Basta organized Open Hearts for Haiti with a portion of the proceeds going to HELP. Melissa reported: “…my Haitian flag of Erzulie Freda (used on the invite) went for $950. The final bid was by a nurse practitioner in cardiology and her husband who is a cardiologist. It has found its rightful home!”
FEBRUARY 14, Miami, FL: HELP was one of four organizations that benefited from a dance performance presented by Dance Now Miami. Special thanks to Hannah Baumgarten for organizing, Lisa Frankel for suggesting HELP as a recipient, and Melissa Moonves for representing HELP at the event.
FEBRUARY 14, Sacramento, CA: Longtime HELP friend Patrick Celestin introduced us to Bella Dreizler, a movement specialist and healer who dedicated her Valentine’s Day dance event, a “collective moving prayer,” to HELP. Bella writes, “I am afloat on the energy of this morning. This amazing, generous heart-full tribe raised $1700 that goes directly to the Haitian Education Leadership Program. … Once a year we dedicate a day to opening our hearts and feeling the love. I am feeling it, I’m sending it out there, I hope that you are feeling it too.” Special thanks to Patrick, Bella and the whole “tribe” who dedicated their beautiful practice this morning to HELP.
MARCH 5, New York City: Marassa – A Celebration of Haitian Art & Style. Vanessa Jacquemin has organized an elegant affair to be held in the Cooper Square Hotel, where an invited audience will bid on artwork from a private collection. Guests will enjoy live music, food and beverages in the spirit of Haitian culture. The evening is being generously sponsored by Louis Vuitton, Moët, Hennessy, with proceeds going to HELP and LakayPAM.
MARCH 12, Eugene, OR: Those of you in the Northwest can stop by Espwa Fe Viv – Hope Springs Eternal, an evening of Haitian music, food and art, organized by our good friend, Kathy Lynn.
Coincidentally, Patrick Bryson, Melissa Basta and Kathy Lynn were all Peace Corps Volunteers in Haiti–thanks to the Peace Corps crew for their continuing support!
And, there have been other remarkable efforts on our behalf, including:
–Sale of a t-shirt designed by Nikki Cochrane with proceeds going to HELP. Check out her blog here.
–Donations by employees of the South Mountain Company were matched by the Company’s Foundation, with HELP selected as one of three Haiti NGO recipients.
–Johnny Schwerk, a friend teaching in Uganda, mobilized his students to make a contribution to Haitian organizations and selected HELP as a recipient.
–Among our newest friends, Emily Smith & her fiancé, Brendan Greenaway, canceled their wedding celebration and are using their budgeted funds for selected charitable purposes. They selected HELP as one of the beneficiaries and will make a contribution equivalent to two full scholarships.
As you can see, your contributions have an immediate and direct impact in Haiti. They allow HELP to provide food and lodging to our students, many of whom have lost their homes, and to coordinate with other organizations who need qualified personnel. We are thus able to transform our students from victims in need of assistance into relief workers helping their fellow Haitians. This is what HELP is all about in the long term, and thanks to you, our students are able to offer their talents and energy to Haiti in this time of great need.
PS–HELP has also been in the news lately: The Boston Globe published this letter I submitted in support of universal education in Haiti, and I and several HELP students are quoted in a New York Times article on higher education in Haiti. The Chronicle of Higher Education also features HELP in this article emphasizing Haiti’s urgent need to rebuild its university education system.