Nearly a month after a cataclysmic earthquake left Haiti in ruins, USF contunues to provide the country with immediate and long-term support.
A group of USF Health students and staff are working to develop a carefully coordinated set of proposals for long-term relief efforts, said interim associate director of USF World Roger Brindley.
“We didn’t want to just rush in,” he said. “We were worried in the days following that any individual person going down (to Haiti) by themselves would simply represent one more person who needed water and food.”
Brindley said in the next few months, USF will develop a coordinated response to determine if and how many USF doctors and staff members to send to Haiti.
Until then, the USF Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) has encouraged student organizations to work together to provide immediate assistance.
The student-run group BullsAid was formed to unite individual student organizations into larger relief initiatives, said Associate Director of CLCE Melissa Alvarez.
Alvarez said about 300 student organizations have joined BullsAid.
“They are trying to coordinate each other’s events so that they can provide support to one another,” Alvarez said. “It’s easy for students to get worn out (with) as much energy that has been put into it in the past couple of weeks.”
According to The Associated Press, the Haitian Government said Tuesday that the death toll is about 230,000 – the same death toll as the 2004 Tsunami in Thailand. That number is expected to rise as Haiti enters the rainy season.
Alvarez said Club Creole, a student organization that promotes Haitian culture and a member of BullsAid, is collecting monetary and itemized donations.
Alvarez said the amount of items collected so far is unknown, but collection boxes were full everyday. Club Creole collected thousands of pounds of items to help the Haitian community.
Monetary donations are encouraged because it’s difficult to ship items to Haiti, she said.
Alvarez said the American Red Cross Club (ARC) at USF partnered with the Tampa Bay ARC chapter to set up collection tables in the Marshall Student Center and outside of Cooper Hall last month.
The total amount of money collected from the ARC at USF was $5,389.98, said Natasha Salazar, the youth specialist with the Tampa Bay chapter.
She said monetary donations are directly deposited into the national Haiti Relief fund, where it’s almost immediately available for use.
Money raised by USF students will help fund items such as food, water, shelter, medical and health care items, Salazar said.
She said 71 percent of the money raised by the ARC will fund food and water, 20 percent will fund shelters and 9 percent will fund medical and other supplies.
“We are going to be there for at least the next three to four years so we are going to need to be fundraising for the long run,” she said.
Salazar said students can donate $10 directly from their phone bill to the Red Cross by texting “HAITI” to 90999, which has raised more than $31 million.
ARC also has plans to fundraise at future USF events, such as an upcoming Dance Concert on April 23, which will feature the USF “Swinging Bulls” as well as cultural dance groups.
According to the BullsAid Facebook page, a Christian Concert Series, CRAVE, will team up with BullsAid and ARC to collect donations for Haiti on Feb. 28.
Salazar said any contribution students can provide would make a difference.
“The biggest thing that can be done right now is to help with fundraising,” she said. “There are so many amazing things that we’ve seen in the Tampa Bay area. We had little kids wash mailboxes and others come in with their piggy banks, trusting that their money will go to help those in need.”
Brindley advised students and faculty members affected by the earthquake to seek help from the USF Counseling Center.
A comprehensive list of the group therapy sessions offered can be found on the center’s Web site: usfweb2.usf.edu/counsel.