St. John’s supports Haiti relief efforts

St. John’s has joined the global relief effort for Haiti.

Students and faculty have spent the last week collecting donations to send to help the people of Haiti after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated the island on Jan. 12. It is estimated that there are already more than 70,000 dead, a number that continues to rise every day. There are still several more thousand missing in the rubble of destroyed homes and buildings.

University officials said there has been an overwhelming response from the St. John’s community and that the first shipment of donations gathered from the Queens campus went out Jan. 14 and should have reached the island sometime over the weekend.

“The Caribbean nation of Haiti is in absolute need of our assistance,” said Nashia Whittenburg, associate director of Multicultural Affairs in an e-mail sent to the St. John’s community last week. “As a Catholic Vincentian University we must accept the responsibility of helping our neighbors in need.”

The effects of the earthquake have been widespread as many wait to receive word that loved ones still in Haiti are safe.

Junior Cassandra Edouard, who was able to locate her family members, said she did not hesitate to spend her time yesterday in the D’Angelo Center helping gather donations.

“I came just to help out,” she said. “My family from Port-au-Prince is okay but I just came to help however I can.”

Other students have friends who were affected and are just looking to contribute in some small way.

“My best friend has family in Haiti and couldn’t find his mother for two days,” said Danielle Douglas, a sophomore. “I just needed to help and do my part.”

The University’s Center of Global Development is sending a

Disaster Relief Team of more than 30 people to Haiti on January 26th. According to their Web site, they will be bringing along medical professionals who are trained in dealing with disaster and trauma care.

The Center has worked in Haiti over the last few years on developmental projects, such as working towards bringing solar power to rural villages and providing aid to students in some of the island’s schools.

Several students from the country are enrolled here at the University.

Dr. Basilio Monterio, a mass communications professor, said he has a graduate student who lives in Haiti enrolled in his online Global Development in Social Justice course.

Monteiro said that he received word that the student was safe this past weekend.

“We were very worried at first but we have been lucky to locate him,” he said.

With spring semester classes starting today, Monteiro said they are trying to figure out a way for the student to still actively participate in the class.

“The situation there just breaks your heart, not because of just the earthquake but because of all the things devastating the country,” he said. “Just last year, there were two hurricanes that destroyed 70 percent of the farm land.”

Monteiro said in light of the devastation, this could be a fresh start for Haiti.

“As sad and heartbreaking as this tragedy is, I think it also creates an opportunity for the people of Haiti to restart their society,” he said. “The country has faced a lot of turmoil and I think, with the help of other nations, efforts should be more focused on long-term, sustainable development rather than short-term.”

Campus Ministry will be holding a prayer vigil on Thursday, Jan. 21 at the St. Thomas More Church.

For the St. John’s supply drive, all donations can be brought to the D’Angelo Center, Suite 124. To donate to the Red Cross, visit their Web site at www.redcross.org.