Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, January 22, 2010

Student-led effort answers earthquake victims' call for help

A student-run initiative, supported by staff from several schools and departments across U-M, is uniting campus efforts to help those devastated by the massive earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12.

The coordinating group, U-M Haiti Relief 2010, conducted the first of many meetings to discuss the organization and implementation of student-led relief efforts for victims in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

“When this tragedy struck, I knew this would be a very important opportunity to involve students,” says Armando Matiz Reyes, director of the field experience office, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education in the School of Public Health.

“Having worked with many students as a facilitator and professor, I was sure that the students would rise to the occasion and participate in a process that requires compassion, solidarity and action.”

The group, which consists of more than 100 individuals from several student organizations, is working on a range of issues, from initial fundraising to coordinating volunteers.

“We have received a lot of e-mails from students looking to volunteer” says Michelle Ma, a student of the Medical School. “The overwhelming response by U-M students to the tragic events in Haiti is impressive and inspiring.”

The students’ overall plan for relief consists of a three-tiered initiative to meet immediate, short-term and long term needs.

Raising money is their first priority as the students work to provide financial support to organizations already on the ground in Haiti. Efforts like the Annual Charity Date Auction, put on by the Indian American Student Association, are allowing the students to raise money through special events.

Youth Hope Organization has taken on a special project of creating silicone bracelets in the Haitian national colors that read "Haiti Kenbe la," meaning "Haiti hang in there," and will offer them for a donation within the U-M community.

Initiatives to follow include gathering food, clothes and medical supplies. They will continue into long-term support through an institutionalized partnership with agencies in Haiti as the country rebuilds.

The students developed a Web Site, www.umhaitirelief.org, to help spread the word on how students and others can get involved and contribute to U-M Haiti Relief 2010.