Haiti Response Team Meets For Second Time
Last Friday, Duke's Haiti response team, comprised of students, administrators and staff, re-convened to discuss the various fundraising events and other plans to support Haiti relief in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Zoila Airall, the assistant vice president of student affairs, called the group’s first meeting on Jan. 15, just days after the earthquake.
Updates included news that Duke Medicine has sent boxes of medical supplies to Haiti with employee April Perry, who was recently recognized with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Caregiver award. Perry has been an active volunteer in Haiti for years.
Chris Roby, the director of the Office of Student Activities & Facilities (OSAF), announced that his office has collected more than $30,000 in Flex Card donations, largely from students.
Geelea Seaford of Duke’s Global Health Institute announced that Dr. David Walmer, co-founder of Family Health Ministries, had been planning an alternative spring break in Haiti before the tragedy and his plans have been put on hold indefinitely, but not cancelled.
Hopefully we’ll have more information in three to four weeks,” said Seaford.
While it is too soon to create another volunteer opportunity in Haiti for this spring, Leslie Grinage of OSAF said her office is looking into programs for 2011.
Others reiterated that while many want to volunteer on the ground in Haiti as soon as they can, it’s still unsafe due to health risks and security concerns. They also noted that volunteers will still be needed months, and even years, from now.
Elaine Madison of DukeEngage said the entire country of Haiti has been placed on a restrictive list, meaning Duke will not cover students who travel there. “I see no aid organizations welcoming volunteers to come,” she added.
“Untrained, unskilled volunteers take away resources and add an extra burden to relief workers,” Madison said. “Our policy is to discourage planning trips.”
Roby said he would encourage energetic students to plan an alternative spring break for next year. Isabelle Figaro, president of the Haitian Students Association, said the need for teachers will be great as the entire school system in Haiti has been shut down.
“It’s important to remember that we do have volunteers going there -- after training -- such as doctors and nurses,” said Airall. “In this way we’ll have coverage from Duke.”