Mason Continues to Stand With Haiti

Posted: June 3, 2010 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: June 2, 2010 at 2:32 pm

By Ethan Vaughan

Five months have passed since the disastrous 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, but the Mason community has not forgotten about the catastrophe.

As international attention turns to other issues, Mason continues to spearhead efforts providing relief to the Haitian people. The university has also formed a committee to ensure a swift  response to emergencies that could arise in the future.

In the aftermath of the Haiti crisis, Mason organizations poured their efforts into delivering assistance.

Phi Beta Sigma sponsored an event called “It Could Have Been Me” and sent donations to the United Way Worldwide Haiti Relief Fund, while the Pan-Hellenic Council mailed care packages and gave to the Red Cross. Women and Gender Studies held a fund-raiser for Beyond Borders and the Red Cross.

Lauren Long, director of the Office of Student Activities, praises Mason’s response.

“There was a real, heartfelt interest in doing the right thing,” she says. “This was across the board, and that was really exciting. It wasn’t just fraternities, it wasn’t just sororities, it wasn’t just faculty or administrators, it wasn’t just Caribbean students.”

Individual students and faculty members also played a major role.

Andrea Bartoli, director of the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, left for Haiti just two days after the quake.

“I belong to an international NGO [called the Community of Sant’Egidio] and we had some members, groups and chapters in three cities in Haiti,” says Bartoli. “They were out of contact and we went to see if they were still alive and able to help others. We found 30. Two passed away and one was seriously injured, but the rest helped.”

He brought in supplies from the Dominican Republic, driving a truck with 40,000 gallons of water to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

Samantha Oester, biology major, volunteered for a medical mission in Haiti and documented it on a blog,

Others are planning to help in the immediate future.

Regine Jean-Francois, a graduate student in public health and Haiti native who was outside of Port-au-Prince during the earthquake, is going back to Haiti at the end of June. She will set up a summer camp for children age 6 to 13 who were affected by the disaster.

“I love kids and decided to start a summer camp,” says Jean-Francois, who will be working with the Catholic Medical Mission Board. “The main objective is to prepare the kids to return to school. We’ll be assessing their mental states with psychologists who are there to help them cope and to explain.”

Mason, meanwhile, has set up a provisional committee under the Emergency Management Executive Council that will “ensure appropriate responsiveness to the needs of individual faculty, staff and students and the Mason community at large.”

“[The committee] started off as a means for setting up proper communication channels for the Mason community when disaster happens,” says Will Rees, a web designer and programmer in Creative Services’ Web Communications unit who serves on the committee.

“We make sure the web sites we manage are updated, getting students who live here in touch with their families in the countries that are affected.”

Long says it is important that Mason implements  such measures.

“When something like this happens, everybody responds,” she says. “We need to make a push to remind people that this wasn’t a two-month incident and not let it fall off people’s radar. We have to make a commitment to continue helping.”

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