MIT Community Joins In Haiti Relief Efforts; Students Raise Funds

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: This article gave incorrect information about the organizers of both the donation booth and the Talent Showcase event, “L’Union Fait La Force: Strength Through Unity.” The Council for the Advancement of Black Students did not organize the donation booths nor the event, though it supported both. The article also misstated the membership of the council. The organization is not made up of “the executive chairs and members of the Black Student Union, the Caribbean Club, African Student Association, Chocolate City, and Black Women’s Alliance.” It is made up of the presidents and vice presidents of those groups.

After the magnitude 7 earthquake struck Haiti on Tuesday, January 12, the MIT community has responded quickly by raising funds and initiating relief projects.

The Council for the Advancement of Black Students — composed of the executive chairs and members of the Black Student Union, the Caribbean Club, African Student Association, Chocolate City, and Black Women’s Alliance — was the first to initiate relief efforts on campus.

The council ran a donation booth in the Student Center between January 18 and 22 in an effort to raise funds. Those who donated were given the choice to support six different organizations already working in Haiti: Partners In Health, Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Catholic Relief Services, UNICEF, and the UN World Food Programme. Each organization is serving different needs in Haiti, such as food, first aid, or shelter. As of yesterday morning, the booth had raised $2,941.45.

In addition to their fundraising, the council is organizing a Haiti Relief Benefit Showcase this Friday, at 7 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium, from which they hope to raise $10,000. The show, entitled “L’Union Fait La Force,” or “Strength Through Unity,” requests a minimum donation of $5 per person. Kamil S. Gedeon ’11, the Vice President of the Caribbean Club, and Dylon R. Rockwell ’11, the Vice Chairman of the National Society of Black Engineers, are heading the event.

“One big thing people need to know is that the earthquake is going to have long-term effects,” said Gedeon, whose family members living in Haiti were affected by the earthquake.

“While short-term monetary donations are beneficial and will help out, we need to also focus on long-term projects that will help the country out, as well,” he said.

Donations to the MIT Public Service Center for Haiti disaster relief will be used to fund student and faculty projects that benefit Haitian people who were affected by the earthquake.

Sally Susnowitz, Director of the MIT Public Service Center, said, “People in Haiti will need help over a long period of time: some work might need to be done from here; some might involve travel to Haiti when it is safe and productive for students to go. Likewise, some of the public service work might involve student-initiated projects, and some might come from the needs that non-governmental organization and community organizations articulate.”

Members of the Media Lab are also working on projects to help with rebuilding Haiti. Dale Joachim, a visiting scientist, led a “Haiti IAP Workshop” to discuss the current state of affairs in Haiti and to brainstorm innovations to benefit relief efforts. Joachim discussed using a network of XO laptops from One Laptop Per Child to relay video and voice messages from Haiti.

Around 40 laptops are being taken right now to be used for the relay of information, he said last week. An eWeek Europe article posted on the OLPC website said 14,000 XO laptops had been sent to Haiti prior to the quake, and OLPC has pledged to send more faster.

“In order for us to help recraft Haiti’s society, it’s important to understand the citizens’ needs and perspectives. The technology we are using is a quick way to surface the voices of the people,” said Joachim.

He also said that Haiti’s reconstruction would benefit from MIT projects involving energy efficiency. “In an academic environment such as MIT, people should use Haiti as a case study for how to rebuild the society in energy-efficient way.”

Yasmine R. Doleyres ’12, who e-mailed out last week for donations and support, thanked the community for its efforts. “To the campus, I’d like to say thank you for your support. Those of us that have family and friends in Haiti hope that you will continue to pray for and support Haiti in any way you can.”