Students team up to help Haiti

Duke guard Nolan Smith, a junior, wears a “Save Haiti” patch on his jersey at Saturday’s basketball game as part of a student-wide movement to raise aid for Haiti.
Duke guard Nolan Smith, a junior, wears a “Save Haiti” patch on his jersey at Saturday’s basketball game as part of a student-wide movement to raise aid for Haiti.

The aftershocks have ceased crumbling Haitian buildings, and the Duke community has jumped at the opportunity to help.

Haiti’s recent earthquake that shattered homes, infrastructure and lives has created an opportunity to rebuild and renew. Duke students and alumni have banded together in the effort to raise money as well as supplies for the struggling country.

From sporting patches on basketball jerseys to paying cover fees for beer pong, members of the Duke community have rallied around Haitian relief.

Three alumni—Doug Rosenberg, Trinity ’07, Jenna Green, Trinity ’08, and former men’s basketball team manager Nick Arison, Trinity ’03—teamed up after the disaster for a sleepless night to discuss how they could help, Rosenberg said.

“Everybody is so numb to [the situation] right now,” Green said. “They’ve done hundreds of amputations and need places for the limbs to go, they’re rotting all over the place. It’s like a war zone.”

Together, the three founded Save Haiti Saturday, a fundraising group based in Miami to support Project Medishare, a health outreach non-profit working in Haiti, Rosenberg said.

Save Haiti Saturday, which began Jan. 16, asks businesses for a percentage of their Saturday proceeds and will culminate in two weeks during Superbowl weekend in Miami, he said.

Donors and corporations have offered the use of their planes and have given hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, Green said. An expansive list of celebrities have also endorsed Save Haiti Saturday, including singer-songwriter Lenny Kravitz, who created a video to publish on the group’s Web site.

Rosenberg said they received more than half a million dollars in online donations alone, and he estimates that they’ve raised more than $1 million dollars.

Duke Athletics has backed the effort, with the 15 teams in season, including men’s basketball, displaying patches on their jerseys, said Mike Craig, senior associate director of athletics.

“It was really a matter for our coaches,” he said. “Once they knew what was a possibility they all said ‘yes, we’re on. We’ll do whatever we can.’”

Students who recently worked in Haiti under DukeEngage also felt the need to act, junior Juyon Kang said. Along with others who spent last summer at the Duke Engage site in Haiti, Kang is planning a 5K run to raise money and awareness to tentatively take place in April.

Some students have been partying for the cause. Spartan Entertainment hosted beer pong at Shooters II Thursday night and promised proceeds to the Save Haiti foundation. The following night, Students of the Caribbean Association hosted a party at Mt. Fuji and solicited donations of cash and goods.

SOCA raised $1,100 as well as significant amounts of food and clothing, said senior Vanessa Vincent, president of the association. The clothing will be shipped to Haiti through containers donated to North Carolina Central University’s Haitian Student Alliance.

Haitian Student Alliance co-President Isabelle Figaro, a senior, said that her organization, in conjunction with Duke Student Government and others, created a venue for students to donate food points to Haiti. The efforts have raised $31,957.13, according to the donation Web site.

Both HSA and SOCA will meet separately to decide where to allocate the money their respective organizations raised. Figaro added that she hopes to put the money toward smaller grassroots organizations.

“I’ve been in awe of the galvanization of the students at the moment,” Figaro said. “This is obviously a very important cause for me and a lot of Haitians on campus, and it was just staggering for me to see how much Duke students support us.”

Rosenberg said that though the donations so far have been promising, the initiative is far from over.

“This is going to be a long effort, and it’s going to take a couple months,” Rosenberg said. “The hard part is going to be keeping awareness of this in four or five months when these people are really going to be needing us.”

Despite the destruction, some still retain optimism for the future of Haiti.

“This earthquake is not just a disaster,” said Stephanie Darand, a Haitian junior. “It’s an opportunity to rebuild and improve upon the independence that we’ve gained and independence that we’ve been trying to reach since 1804.”


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