MIT students rally to help Haiti quake victims

Many raise funds on campus, one traveled to provide medical assistance

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Students in the Martin Luther King, Jr. design seminar are collecting donations for the relief effort in Haiti as part of an installation in Lobby 10 this week.
Vibin Kundukulam—The Tech

After the most powerful earthquake to hit Haiti in a century, more MIT students have raised their voices in response to the catastrophe and have held events to help with the Haiti earthquake relief. From video game marathons to prayers to collages, students have found new ways to engage the community in furthering efforts to help earthquake victims.

“I had just woken up from a nap on the day the earthquake occurred, and was quickly overwhelmed by the devastation it has caused,” said Edner Paul ’13, an international student from Haiti. “I could only hope for the best after desperately trying to get in touch with my father and a few of my old classmates studying in the capital. Fortunately, my close relatives were fine after they managed to get out of their house before it collapsed.”

Upon hearing the news of the earthquake from his aunt, Anthony P. Farrell ’12 quickly flew to the devastated country with a medical team.

“The main reason I went along at all is because I speak French, and so does a good-sized portion of the Haitian population,” Farrell said. “I guess the one thing that stuck with me is the fact that nearly every building had concrete walls with barbed wire or broken glass bottles set into the tops of them. The odd thing is, Haiti was like that before the earthquake.”

Following last week’s donations and the student-organized Haiti Relief Show, the MIT Chapter of Global Poverty Initiative held a charity ice skating event in the Johnson Ice Rink, where students gathered to brainstorm relief project ideas with fellow international developers.

Students in 17.920, the IAP Martin Luther King Jr. Design Seminar, constructed a display depicting the tragedies of the earthquake that had devastated the nation. Titled “Haiti: How We can Help,” the project details the instability of the country in history and solicits donations.

Others have come up with novel ideas to raise money. The Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab will be hosting a charity event called The Complete Game-Completion Marathon on the weekend of Feb. 26–28. Individuals and teams are asked to come to the lab and play a selected game to completion in one sitting. Participants will need to independently seek sponsorship, as in charity walk. All the proceeds are going directly to relief efforts in Haiti through Partners in Health.

“Many of us at the lab were struck by the disaster in Haiti, and we see the greater video game community as an energetic and powerful group,” said Abe D. Stein of the GAMBIT Lab. “I am more interested in our video game community remembering our strength and responsibility to the world. Game developers and game players are a tight knit group, and as a primary goal I want participation and awareness from lots of people showing that when driven, our little ‘game’ village can accomplish a lot of good.” This event is the first of its kind in GAMBIT’s history, according to Stein.

Jesus and Justice, a new Christian student group, plans to hold a fast and prayer session today at noon in Lobdell. Jasmine Park ’11, the organizer of the event, has decided on a three-week challenge to raise money and awareness in partnership with other Christian MIT groups such as Asian Christian Fellowship, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Graduate Christian Fellowship. Park has been collecting contributions and written prayers from students to post on a collage in the Student Center. Donations are will go to World Vision, a faith-based organization on the ground in Haiti distributing aid for earthquake survivors.

“Other than donations, we also want to unite the community and engage the campus to think upon the incident and emphasize with the victims,” explained Park. “We will gather the requests from the written prayers and pray together for Haiti on Saturday.”

Anna Young from MIT Innovations in International Health is developing a solar autoclave to sterilize water and medical equipment. The technology is still in the development phase, but Young’s team has tested it in Nicaragua and hopes to take it to Haiti in the coming year.

“Haiti is the epitome of why we are doing this work. The people in the economy will benefit directly from our work,” Young said. “Our hearts go out to the people in Haiti. We want to use this as an opportunity to engage people in the U.S. to keep working on better technologies.”