USF clubs unite to aid Haitians

With the increased instability in Haiti during the past three weeks, numerous USF student organizations have come together to help needy communities in the violence-stricken Caribbean nation.

After rebel forces made their way through the country in an attempt to oust now former president of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide, the nation is facing a serious political crisis with a death toll of more than 100 people.

Last Sunday, Aristide resigned and immediately sought asylum in the Central African Republic, according to an Associated Press report. Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre became Haiti’s new president, as he was the second in command, the AP reported.

The International Studies Organization at USF along with several other student organizations are helping Amor en Accion’s, a non-profit organization that has been helping people in need in places like Haiti and the Dominican Republic for more than 28 years, organize a food drive headed to Haiti, said Joan Newcomb, assistant of the international studies program.

“Other organizations have been eager to help this cause,” Newcomb said. “This (drive) is a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic effort. And given the crisis in Haiti, they need all the help they can get.”

Newcomb along with Club Creole and ISO, is collecting non-perishable products that will be taken to Miami over the weekend, said Newcomb.

Other USF student organizations that are participating in the project are the Muslim Student Association, the Spanish Club, the Model U.N., the Catholic Student Union and the Geography Club.

Kathylynn Pierre, a USF alumna, is part of the non-profit organization Amor en Accion, or Love in Action, who has been part of the organization for the last seven years, said the group does not want to be a “big saver” but instead it wants to assist the establishments that exist within Haiti.

“Our goal is to reinforce the institutions that are already there (in Haiti),” said Pierre, who is also Haitian-American. “We don’t want to create dependency with the people of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.”

Pierre said members from the organization visit the island often to find out about the needs of the different communities and subsequently Amor en Accion funds the programs the communities want to install.

“More or less, we want to build hope by building houses or schools, for example,” she said.

This latest project for Haiti began the last week of February and the donations will be ready to be send by boat from the Miami Port by the end of March, Pierre said.

Communities included Gros-Mourne, which is about 170 miles northwest from Port-au-Prince, the capital, and Port-de-Paix, which is about 100 miles northwest from the capital.

“The roads are badly built so it takes about five to seven hours to get to Port-de-Paix or Gros-Mourne,” she said. “There are also these Russian-Cuban planes donated by Castro … that fly from Port-au-Prince to Port-de-Paix.”

Amor en Accion is asking for contributions that cost less than $1, such as canned goods. The products needed for the food drive project are divided into medical items such as first aid supplies, vitamins and medicine. In addition, the group also needs food items such as rice, powdered milk, dry pasta and baby formula.

Pierre, who is also the spokesperson of Amor en Accion in the Miami-Dade area, said the organization counts with about 200 members from the Michigan area as well as the South Florida region. She added that typically one of the members visits the island in order to bring donations, but with the increased violence only the director of Amor en Accion, Teresita Gonzalez, will make the next trip.

Friday is the last day to drop off products for those who are interested in participating in the food drive. The products can be delivered to Room 373 in the Social Sciences building, Newcomb said.