Duke Coordinating Relief Efforts
On Friday afternoon, about 40 Duke administrators, students, staff and health professionals gathered on West Campus to coordinate Duke’s response to the crisis in Haiti.
Many fundraising events and other relief efforts are already in the planning stages.
“I believe it is critical for members of the Duke community to share information so they become aware of the outreach across the campus community,” said Zoila Airall, the assistant vice president of student affairs, who called the meeting.
Duke is one of the universities that fall under the federal response plan for international crises. Dr. Ian Greenwald, chief medical officer and a member of Duke’s disaster response team, explained that emergency response happens in waves, with military going into disaster areas first, nongovernment organizations (NGOs) next and grassroots efforts often the third wave of relief.
“Duke will go in the next six months,” said Greenwald, adding that some Duke doctors are going ahead of the coordinated Duke effort. Other members of the medical center staff cautioned students and others against going to Haiti for personal safety reasons and to not further strain relief efforts.
Sally Bates, chaplain at the Duke Divinity School, had planned a trip to Haiti later this month and was also preparing to lead a 10-day mission trip in the spring. The trip was to help three orphanages, one of which was completely destroyed in the earthquake.
“I just can’t imagine it… Haiti is a stressed country on a good day,” she said, adding her plans are now on hold.
Elaine Madison, assistant director of DukeEngage, said that in her experience, cash donations are the most effective and efficient way to help, but if items must be shipped, “it is good economic rationale to send higher value items like water purification systems rather than 99-cent T-shirts.”
The Duke Card Office is working to collect cash donations from student Flex accounts and pool them into a central Duke account, and Airall agreed this was a good way for students who want to contribute monetarily to do so.
“I can’t tell you about the problems and sorrows I’ve heard in regards to money being kept in the residence halls,” she said. Airall also said that while many feel compelled to help on the ground, they should not “feel like they have to go today. It will be going on for months.”
Isabel Figaro, president of the Haitian Student Alliance, announced the student group has secured free shipping containers at the Port of Miami and it would be accepting donations to ship to NGOs on the ground in Haiti.
Reginald Patterson, a doctoral student in Romance Studies, described how he narrowly missed the earthquake, flying out of Haiti just four hours before it hit.
“I am very pleased to be alive,” said Patterson, an accomplished violinist who offered to perform at campus fundraisers.
Jean Casimir, a former Haitian Ambassador to the U.S. who just arrived at Duke as a visiting scholar in the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, said he was happy to see so many from Duke mobilize to help his country. He added that he hoped knowledge could be applied to prevent another tragedy of this scale.
Fernande Legos, a Haitian-born student in Duke’s International Comparative Studies program, said her family was okay, but like many other families, were sleeping outside out of fear their home would collapse. She expressed hope that people will remain committed after the immediacy of the disaster has waned.
“I think we should start laying the groundwork now for projects that would lead to strategically rebuilding the country,” Figaro said.
The same group intends to meet again next Friday to continue coordinating efforts. For more information about Haitian relief efforts at Duke, go to www.duke.edu/haiti/.