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Helping Haiti: A semester summary

Published: April 30, 2010
Section: Features


The Brandeis Haiti Relief Effort, co-chaired by Nate Rosenblum ’10 and Shaina Gilbert ’10, has worked throughout this semester to take part in the global campaign to aid Haiti after the earthquake that took place there Jan. 12. As the semester winds down, the Brandeis Haiti Relief Effort is growing closer and closer to its goals for spring 2010.

The group will be holding their last event, “A Night for Haiti,” on Saturday in an effort to raise the last thousand dollars needed to get to their goal of $25,000.

Gilbert expressed her pride for the relief effort thus far: “Haiti was hit hard, but the love and support [being extended to this country] hopefully hits it even harder,” she said.

Rosenblum echoed Gilbert’s sentiments: “Knowing how many groups that came together to make this happen is [very cool]. Just looking back, I’m overwhelmed.”

Wednesday afternoon featured a panel called “Looking Forward: Sustainable Development in Haiti,” hosted by the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, in conjunction with the Relief Effort, and the annual A Cappella Fest Benefit Concert, hosted by Starving Artists last Wednesday evening, featured all of the a cappella groups on campus, and donated its proceeds to the relief cause.

A Night for Haiti, a semi-formal gala, called A Night for Haiti, which is scheduled to take place Saturday night. The Night for Haiti festival is a formal dinner to mark the end of the semester and to celebrate students’ efforts for Haiti so far.

“I want to see a lot of students come and support it because it’s the culmination of all the Haiti events this semester,” said Sofia Bronshvayg ’11, an organizer of the event. “I think it’s something different that the whole campus is invited to—We don’t have a whole campus formal, to my knowledge. We are also inviting faculty, trustees [and] alumni, which is somewhat unusual,” she explained.

The event will feature Haitian music and cuisine. There will also be a silent auction including a homemade dinner for six in Father Walter Cuenin’s home, preseason tickets for the Patriots, parking in North Quad (though not a parking pass), vases from the pottery club and a three-day trip to Montreal, among other prizes.

“I think this community needs a big pat on the back for all the work that’s been put in[to this cause],” said Rosenblum of the Gala.

The money that is raised through the relief efforts will be split between three organizations: Partners in Health, Hope for Haiti and ETE Camp, which Gilbert and her family founded last summer.

This year, five Brandeis students, including Gilbert, are traveling to Haiti to work as counselors at the camp.

Next year, there will be an application process for students who are interested in interning there.

“It’s important that we incorporate the Haitian people as part of the [rebuilding] process. Brandeis is familiar with community service, and what it means to be a community worker is to work with the community,” said Gilbert.

Her sentiments were echoed in Wednesday’s panel, where experts discussed how Haiti can continue to develop. The panelists agreed that in order for the effort to succeed, there must be a shift in mindset: Foreigners must stop feeling that they are providing aid to a country that cannot help itself, and must instead begin to feel solidarity with the Haitian people.

So far, the panel argued, the overall Haiti relief effort has been uncoordinated and has failed to bring help to many Haitians who need it. For example, the relief effort is too centered in urban areas, even though many people who lived in cities have taken refuge in rural areas.

Gilbert agreed with some points addressed at the panel, but encouraged people to emphasize the good that has been done as well.

“I do admit that the efforts aren’t coordinated, but they’re there. And that’s not something we had before,” said Gilbert, optimistically. “Even though they’re making [mistakes] on the federal level, the global level, the international level, that doesn’t mean Brandeis has to, too,” she added.

In fact, Brandeis’ semester-long push to provide significant monetary relief has been full of very coordinated activities: The Brandeis Haiti Relief Effort, working in conjunction with an enormous number of other clubs, has helped to organize a vigil for Haiti, a charity dinner at the Chabad house, concerts, ice skating, valentine making and the Hoops for Haiti event.

In addition, there have been several educational events, including Take Me to Haiti, a night dedicated to celebrating Haitian culture. At the event, there was a slide show, Haitian food, poetry, a live mural and other activities.

“It was just really cool that people appreciate Haiti on a whole other level,” said Gilbert.

Moreover, the Brandeis Haiti Relief Effort already has a few events planned for next semester.

“We’re getting together a Brandeis alumni trip to Haiti with doctors and nurses,” explained Rosenblum.

“We’re seeking to have a student exchange program, so students from Haiti can come here,” said Gilbert.

In addition, there is talk of possibly teaming up with the Volunteer Vacations program to send students to Haiti. “We’re hoping to send a Brandeis contingent,” said Rosenblum, “I think it would be phenomenal to have a group of Brandeis students go down to Haiti.”

While this semester’s efforts are drawing to a close, they have been inspirational for many who participated in one or more of them.

“It’s been an amazing semester, watching everybody come together,” said Gilbert. “My soul is in this moment right now.”

Tickets for A Night for Haiti event are $10 for Brandeis students, $15 for students who do not attend Brandeis and $25 for everyone else.