After the campus vigil, Brandeis students focus on Haiti's future
Meeting will be held Thursday to form a unified support plan
Student groups and individuals who are considering an array of efforts to relieve earthquake victims in Haiti and assist in long-term reconstruction of the devastated country will meet Thursday evening, Jan. 21, to forge a unified Brandeis response to the tragedy.
The meeting, which all students interested in working for a better future for Haiti are invited to attend, will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. in the offices of the Waltham Group, on the third floor of Shapiro Campus Center.
Conveners of the meeting are two Brandeis seniors with recent experience working in Haiti.
Shaina Gilbert '10, a first-generation Haitian-American, along with four other Brandeis students and Gilbert’s father, who teaches math at Hyde Park High School in Boston, founded a camp in the Haitian town of Hinche last summer. The ETE (for Empowering Through Education) Camp enrolled 43 children ages 8 to 11 last summer, and will have 70 children next summer.
The camp, which uses Episcopal School facilities in Hinche that were not badly damaged in the earthquake, is affiliated with the Global Haiti Initiative. GHI aims to build awareness of Haiti’s culture, history, current conditions and needs.
“I know people are focused on giving to relief funds right now, but Haiti needs to be rebuilt for the long term too,” Gilbert said during a tabling session in the campus center atrium this week. “Our counseling and teaching work there is very challenging. It has got to continue.”
“I have hope for Haiti. I want others to, also,” Gilbert said. “This is a strong people, a strong culture.” She added that the problems of poverty and underdevelopment that plagued Haiti long before the earthquake and now are making a bad situation worse “are not all the nation’s fault.”
That theme was stressed by the Rev. Hurmon Hamilton of Roxbury Presbyterian Church, the principal speaker at this year’s Martin Luther King commemoration Monday night, where Gilbert and Nate Rosenblum '10 of the Waltham Group appealed for support for Haiti.
Hamilton, who characterized King as “an ordinary man who has extraordinary responses” to the injustices of the world, told students “you ought to be angry about the Western world and what it’s done in Haiti – but where were we before the earthquake?”
King took his anger “outside the church and the mosque and the synagogue and he fashioned it into a tool” for good, Hamilton said to the overflow student audience. “”The question is what will you do with your anger?”
Rosenblum, a Waltham Group coordinator, was in Haiti over the break with the organization Hope for Haiti. He returned just three days before the earthquake struck.
“I was blown away” by the experience, Rosenblum said. “I’m hoping to get back there this summer.”
Regarding the meeting in the Waltham Group office, he said: “we want everyone to come and say what they want to do in terms of fundraising, education, whatever. We want to make sure Brandeis makes a good, coordinated effort.”
Money donated by the audience at the MLK commemoration and at a subsequent vigil in the Shapiro Campus Center atrium will go half to the American Red Cross and half to Hope for Haiti. Part of the discussion at the planning meeting will be about donations to long-term rebuilding efforts.
Christopher Columbus arrived on the island of Hispaniola (today split into the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic) in 1492. He encountered Taino and Arawak people living in an environment rich in natural resources, including gold. By 1804, when Haiti became the world’s first black republic, these original inhabitants had virtually disappeared, replaced by African slaves imported to mine gold and plant coffee and sugar for export to Europe.
Known for centuries as “The Pearl of the Antilles,” Haiti became the richest European colony in the Western Hemisphere. Today, however, Haiti is known by Americans principally as “the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,” a poverty-stricken, dangerously violent, unstable country that lives under a mysterious curse, enduring one natural or political catastrophe after another.
Haiti lies just 600 miles off the coast of Florida and its history and economy are inextricably linked to those of the United States.
The Boston area is home to the third largest population of Haitians in the U.S., and Waltham houses a significant portion of them.