Columbia finds ties to Haiti

By BenitaZepeda

On Jan. 12, Haiti encountered an unexpected tragedy. On that same day, junior music business major Qi’Ante Alexander received an upsetting phone call from her mother.

“The day of the earthquake, I was on the bus on my way to work when my mother told me that my great-grandmother was found under a collapsed building and that she didn’t make it,” Alexander said.

Her great-grandmother was living in a town 120 miles outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Alexander said that she never made it to Haiti to visit, but has memories from when her great-grandmother would come to Chicago during holidays.

Despite the fact that the 7.0 earthquake struck more than 1,800 miles from Chicago, many people in the Windy City, like Alexander, felt the emotional aftershock of the tragedy and have encouraged people to do their part to contribute to relief efforts.  She said that the biggest problem is getting the resources into Haiti to help people.

“They weren’t arriving at first,” Alexander said.  “Then they started arriving so fast and they didn’t have anywhere to put the supplies.”

Providing resources is one way that Chicagoans and the Columbia community continue to make efforts to help Haiti.

Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs, said Columbia President Warrick L. Carter issued an e-mail to the Columbia community asking them to help Haiti.

“I suggested to the president and encouraged that we focus our efforts with a member of the community that is Haitian,” Kelly said.

And that is exactly what Columbia has been accomplishing. Carroll Voltaire, Columbia staff member and counselor in the Upward Bound Program, has been heading Columbia’s relief funds for Haiti. She is from Petit-Goâve, a town 42 miles south of Port-au-Prince.

“There is an appeal from the president going out to faculty and staff and it’s going to [reach] students in the loop encouraging donations that will be earmarked for this town,” Kelly said.

He said that the e-mail explains how people can make their donations. “It also encourages any additional activities on the college’s behalf.” Kelly said. “Anyone can do what they want, but we want to focus our activities to support this specific community that was devastated.”

Voltaire has been in contact with her mother, who lives in Haiti and provides an outlet for people to see how the relief efforts have been noticed within Petit-Goâve.

In the announcement sent by Carter on Jan. 21, Voltaire’s update stated that “people are roaming the streets day and night; there are dead bodies scattered throughout, people are still trapped under collapsed structures,  rescue missions have not yet reached my hometown and other affected cities south of Port-au-Prince.”

According to Gigi Posejpal, director of International Student Affairs, there will be a fundraising bake sale on Feb. 17, 18 and 19 in the lobby of the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave., tentatively from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The bake sale, run by the International Student Organization, is just another effort by the Columbia community to help send resources to Haiti.

In addition to the efforts put forth by Columbia,  Alexander said that any way people can contribute to the relief fund for Haiti is key.

“Just donate what you can and nothing beyond your means,” Alexander said in response to Columbia’s efforts. “It’s not about doing something for your conscience, it’s doing it because it’s right. A dollar can do a lot of things. You add them all up and it can do wonders, and I think that is definitely how Chicago is trying to help.”