As photos and stories from Haiti continue to catch the public eye, students and professors on campus have undertaken various efforts to provide whatever help they can.
Much of Haiti has been ravaged and hundreds of thousands left dead by the large-scale earthquake that struck last week. To honor those lost and to help those in need of aid, the USC Office of Religious Life hosted a vigil Tuesday and the Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism hosted a CrisisCamp volunteer session Sunday.
Students and community members came together Tuesday at the interfaith vigil.
“The event was all about healing and grief, but it’s also about learning, and getting background,” said Rev. Jim Burklo. “Education is a big part of it; we want to get people interested in the history of the country as well as a spiritual response.”
The vigil began with Varun Soni, the dean for the Office of Religious Life, who gave the audience of about 25 a brief recap of what occurred in Haiti and of the earthquake’s destruction and its effects.
“Today we come together to support the people of Haiti and to support each other,” Soni said in his opening speech. “Today we bring together the spiritual and scholarly resources of our university in order to raise money and awareness for Haiti.”
Allyson Salinger Ferrante, a graduate student who is working on her dissertation on Caribbean literature, followed with a poem by René Dépestre titled Ballad of a Little Lamp.
“As students and members of a privileged community who have access to education among other basic things like food, clothes and shelter, we may feel that we are too small to really effect any change, but that’s not true,” Ferrante said. “Every dollar counts and the spread of information counts, and that doesn’t cost anything.”
Students who attended the event said they felt it was important to show support as a group.
“I think its important to unite our campus because a lot of us know people whose family members have been affected,” said Jillian Angeline, a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. “As the Haitian community is uniting, the students on campus should as well.”
Erica Edwards, a senior majoring in English who attended the event, said she hopes other students understand what happened.
“It’s important to take some time to reflect on Haiti, it’s really important to look at the larger picture and to see the world and see life globally as opposed to just our own life,” said Edwards. “It is important to make time for those who are in need. One day it could be us.”
Beyond the vigil, faculty and community members met Sunday to use their technological skills to help the relief effort as part of CrisisCamp Haiti, a program hosted by Annenberg.
More than 40 volunteers worked on various projects, including an open street map of Haiti and a family locator system. Others helped by translating messages into French and Haitian Creole.
“The idea was just to get people together and see what we can do,” said Andrew Lih, the Annenberg faculty member who organized the event in Los Angeles. “It’s tough to figure out the impact of what is going on here in Haiti, but at least we can use the technology to help.”
Lih said he is trying to organize another event but emphasized that volunteers should also undertake crisis-relief projects on their own.
“Events like this are really time sensitive, and some people say that even waiting a week to meet is too late,” Lih said.