Several students and organizations hope to travel to Haiti to aid in relief efforts.
Jessica Jean-Pierre was still at home in Brooklyn for winter break when the magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti.
“I found out about it on Facebook. I was looking at a guy’s status and it said Haiti had an earthquake, but it just didn’t hit me. Then I put on the news,” the senior nursing major said.
“I thought, ‘What are they talking about? We don’t get earthquakes,’” she said. “The images they started showing made me go, ‘Oh my gosh, this is real.’”
Jean-Pierre’s mother is from Haiti, and her uncles and cousins are still living there. Her Uncle T’Andre was visiting the family in New York just four days before the earthquake. They were planning a trip for Jean-Pierre and her sister to go to Haiti next summer.
“My uncles live together, and the cousins live in different areas. They live in Delmas. It’s a section of the capital,” Jean-Pierre said. “My mom hasn’t been able to reach him. But we’ve had other family call and tell us he’s called them. He said his house is fine.”
Her neighborhood in Brooklyn has a large population of Haitians, and she said everyone was affected.
“Every Haitian had a family member there because that’s where the jobs are,” she said. “That was the center of everything.”
Jean-Pierre and her family made donations to the Red Cross, in hopes of rebuilding Haiti to be better than before.
Meanwhile, in the lobby of Temple’s Kornberg School of Dentistry building, the Haiti Club set up shop collecting money, clothes and canned food and selling T-shirts and hats. Any funds and supplies they raise will be donated to the Haitian Health Foundation.
The Haiti Club sends 10 students and four faculty members to a remote village in Haiti for a week each year in March; this would be their 15th year making the trip.
While there, the club does tooth extractions for hundreds of people who line up to receive the only dental care made available to them.
“We see a thousand people in one week,” said Rachel Bresler, a fourth-year dental student and a Haiti Club group leader.
“We pick up a little Creole, ‘What tooth hurts?’ ‘Open,’ ‘Close,’ but our closest relationship is with the translators,” she said.
One translator, who goes by Junior, is a friend of the club. He was in Port-au-Prince during the earthquake. Bresler tried calling all the translators for three days straight, but she didn’t hear from Junior until a week later.
Junior sent an e-mail letting friends and family know he was alive and well.
“After all those things, everybody sleeps in the streets together, eating together, sharing everything that we have with each other, sleeping together and praising the name of God and asking for grace together. WE ALL BECOME ONE just as one family [sic],” he wrote in the e-mail.
Like Junior, many Haitians are finding ways to let their loved ones know they’re alive. Jean-Pierre heard some using Haitian radio stations to get their message out.
“Not in the city, but in other towns, stations were still up and running. People will go there and say they found this person or, ‘To all my family members, this is my name. I’m found, and I’m safe,’” she said.
Haiti Club trips have been canceled in the past, and there is worry it may happen again.
“A couple people are scared to go down. We are going to do everything in our power to go. This is a time when we’re needed most,” Bresler said.
Jean-Pierre also wants to lend a helping hand in Haiti.
“I told my mom I’m still going,” she said. “Rebuilding is going to take years. I’m not going to see the city that I would have seen.”
Michelle Provencher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.