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ND community eager to aid in Haiti relief

Madeline Buckley | Friday, January 15, 2010

After the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti Tuesday, students poured into the student government office in LaFortune Student Center and asked student body president Grant Schmidt, “What’s our plan?”

“A lot of students have been asking how to give money,” Schmidt said. “I know a lot of people want to help.”

The New York Times is reporting the death toll could be up to 50,000.

Student government has been working with leaders of clubs and organizations on campus to organize a relief effort for the people of Haiti.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good plan in place,” he said.

Cash boxes will be set up throughout campus this weekend in places such as LaFortune Student Center, the dining halls and the dorms for students to donate money, which will then be transferred to an account set up by student government and the University. The funds will be donated to American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, fundraising efforts of Friends of the Orphans, Congregation of Holy Cross and the Notre Dame Haiti Program.

Students can also bring money to the student government office in the Student Center from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m.

“The best way we can help right now is by collecting donations,” Schmidt said.

He said student government and the other campus groups, however, have started brainstorming additional creative ways to raise money.

Junior Michael Daly is a founder of Friends of the Orphans (FOTO), an on-campus club that raises money to support nine orphanages in Latin America and the Caribbean. One of the orphanages is in Haiti.

Daly spent two weeks in Haiti over the summer shadowing a priest and doctor, Fr. Rick Frechette, who is the director of the orphanage. FOTO supports and runs several hospitals and clinics in the slums of Haiti.

“Just thinking about the poverty I saw there when it was ‘normal,’ I can’t even fathom the problems now with all the destruction,” Daly said.

FOTO is working with the fundraising efforts of student government and is hoping to hold a benefit concert featuring campus groups such as The Undertones and the student contemporary brass band M.O.B.B.

“We’re trying to raise as much money as possible for these people,” he said. “When I was there, there were no resources. Now they have no way of getting those resources shipped in. There’s going to be no way to get necessities of life to these people.”

Daly said gang violence, poor health care and large-scale unemployment plagued the country when he shadowed Frechette this summer. Now, those problems are magnified.

“It’s going to be hell,” he said.

When Daly worked in the Haitian hospitals, he said the resources were scarce and people could not afford basic health care.

“There was a woman dying of breast cancer, and the cancer was eating away at her chest so you could see inside her chest,” he said. “But there was nothing they could do but put a bandage on it.”

Clean water is generally unavailable, but Daly said a water truck would drive through the streets daily playing a song similar to that of an ice cream truck.

“Naked children would literally run out into the streets to try to get clean water,” he said.

Daly said he is hoping to schedule the benefit concert to raise money for the relief effort in the next two weeks.

The University released a statement Wednesday assuring the Notre Dame community that faculty members who are working with the Notre Dame Haiti Program in the country are all safe.

Faculty member Sarah Craig, program manager, Logan Anderson, assistant program manager, MarieDenise Milord, a post-doctoral student and Fr. Thomas Streit, the program director, were in Haiti at the time.

A Notre Dame student participating in a service program in Haiti is also safe, the release said.

The University’s program in Haiti focuses on research and elimination of lymphatic filariasis, also known as Elephantiasis, a disease that afflicts more than 26 percent of the Haitian population.

The program is based in in Léogâne, about 30 kilometers west of the Port-au-Prince, and there is no information yet about the damage to the facilities.

The University is organizing a Mass and a relief fund. The details have not yet been released.