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USF joins relief efforts for Haiti

USF is working this week to send relief to Haiti, which was rocked by a cataclysmic earthquake a week ago, and help students who were affected.

Jennifer Espinola, director for the USF Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE), said the center will serve as a resource to help students understand the different variables and complexities with disaster relief.

A “collective action meeting” is being held today at 5 p.m. in Marshall Student Center (MSC) room 3707 to inform students of how they can help.

“Our mission is to help our students become leaders who are actively engaged and responsible citizens for our global community,” she said. “It’s very unfortunate that this is the context in which we are teaching those principles to our students, but at the same time, we are so proud of how our students have rallied and shown their interest, their willingness and their dedication to actually doing something.”

Dale Hicks, director of the USF Counseling Center, said efforts are well under way to assist USF students, faculty and staff who were affected by the earthquake. Group therapy sessions have been arranged, and more will be scheduled as students who were affected come forward, he said.

USF has partnered with Haitian radio station Mango Radio, which plans to hold a Red Cross benefit concert Jan. 23 to raise funds. Those wishing to help with the event can send an e-mail to Monetary donations to Mango Radio can be made at

Students can also donate $10 toward Red Cross efforts by texting “HAITI” to 90999, which is billed directly to cell phones. According to The Associated Press (AP) on Monday, more than $20 million has been raised through this method.

The USF Red Cross, which was founded after Hurricane Katrina two years ago, will also collect money on campus by the Library, the MSC and in individual classrooms.

“Anything students could give would be appreciated,” said Janmarie Pena, fundraiser chair for the USF American Red Cross. “Every little penny adds up, and these people need it immediately.”

Jose J. DeJesus, a Student Government (SG) senator for the College of Arts and Sciences, said SG’s main role will be uniting the individual student organizations into larger relief initiatives while also providing marketing and leadership assistance.

“There are a lot of ideas from a lot of organizations, and we’re trying to bring them all under one umbrella to allow them to have successful events,” he said. “I think as a member of (SG), that’s our role. We need to be able to facilitate anything the student organizations are trying to do.”

SG is hoping to have one to two events per week, where each day individual organizations will collect one specific item to donate.

Club Creole has partnered with the CLCE to set up boxes in its offices, as well as the Office of Student Organizations and Office of Multicultural Affairs to collect additional donated materials. The boxes will be on campus until Jan. 28.

The death toll in Haiti is exceeding 200,000, according to the AP, and some USF students still haven’t heard from family members.

At a candlelight vigil held Thursday night at the MSC Amphitheatre, monetary donations were collected while some in attendance shared their stories.

The vigil began with scriptures from the Bible and followed with songs in Creole and English.

Veronock Xavier, a USF alumnus and member of Club Creole, then came onstage and shared that his brother and sister are in Haiti, and he hasn’t been able to contact them since the earthquake.

“Tomorrow it will be three days,” Xavier said. “Still, I read my Bible daily … Everything in Port-Au-Prince was destroyed, but the airports’ runways remained clear for relief workers. If not for God, everything would have been destroyed.”

Cries of “amen” came from the audience.

Then, students prayed and lit their candles. There was crying from those who were unsure about loves ones. One by one, they called out the names of their missing family members.

The evening closed with a moment of silence, followed by the Haitian national anthem and a final benediction. Berthanie Augustin, a junior majoring in education, said her grandfather is missing.

“I miss him,” she said as she held back tears and walked away.

On Friday, USF President Judy Genshaft sent an e-mail to all faculty and staff, praising the efforts of the University.

“We are all touched by the disaster, and I am proud of all of you who quickly began relief drives,” Genshaft said in the e-mail. “Your resolve is inspiring. We’ve seen students, faculty and staff from every part of the USF System organize action plans, assist in communications and offer support to local residents with family and friends in Haiti.”