Story by Sean Larson
Photos as Noted
On January 12, 2010, a devastating magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the tiny island nation of Haiti, with the epicenter just sixteen miles west of the country’s capital Port-au-Prince. No one would be able to foresee the horrific damage, both physical and emotional, that the earthquake would cause.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the quake, and in remembrance of the event, Students for Global Health, a student group at the University of Oregon, is hosting a memorial event called “Remember Haiti” in PLC 180 at 7:00pm.
Founded in 2007, Students for Global Health is a student-run group at the UO that is dedicated to creating social progress and raising awareness about global health issues. Jackson Wong, Executive Director of the organization, hopes “Remember Haiti” will remind people that Haiti still needs help one year after the earthquake.
“Even just a month after, Haiti had disappeared from the news,” Wong says. There are still millions living in tents and without jobs, so this is a reminder to campus that it is still there and Haiti still needs our help.”
Some students outside of the group have a similar vision. Matt Goetz, sophomore, thinks that that if students saw just how much Haiti still needs help, there would be a greater response on campus.
“I feel like there is a general consensus that Haiti is still a country in need of a lot of help, but we as students don’t really know how wide spread the damage is there,” Goetz says. “I feel that we need to be shown pictures from the devastation as well as hear some of the people in Haiti talk about what has been done and what still needs to be done in order for Haiti to be able to move on from this tragedy and become a thriving nation once again.”
Elizabeth Schaller, the group’s Director of Events and Education, hopes for a similar positive response from the students who attend.
“I want students to get a sense that natural disasters don’t just go away, even after a year,” Schaller says. “I want students to also take away a hopeful sense that there are committed people and organizations that are working towards Haiti’s recovery which is why we will be devoting a good portion of the event to showcasing these people and organizations.”
“Remember Haiti” will be tied in with the Haitian Education & Leadership Program (H.E.L.P.). The mission of H.E.L.P. is to “provide merit-based university scholarships in Haiti for top high school graduates who could never afford the tuition.” This is to help prevent what is called the “brain drain,” where some of Haiti’s most educated and skilled survivors leave the country in order to find better opportunities. In fact, on average 84 percent of college graduates in Haiti leave the country to find better job opportunities. But H.E.L.P is doing their part to keep Haiti’s brightest minds home. Since 1999, H.E.L.P. has graduated forty students, and all of them are staying in Haiti to lend a helping hand in the recovery from the earthquake.
During the UO event, there will be a presentation including images of the devastation in Haiti in order to give students a better sense of how one year later, Haiti still needs help to rebuild. Kathy Lynn, a community midwife who spent time in Haiti working with the Peace Corps will also be presenting.
Students for Global Health are also looking to make this event an endorsement for fraternities and sororities at the UO, which could lead to an even bigger turnout. Schaller believes that making the event Greek Life-endorsed could improve the success of the event.
“The more people who know about these issues and causes the better. That in itself is a success,” Schaller says. “Our hope is that even if out of hundred people, one person wants to do more, then the event has done what we hoped it would, no matter who is in attendance.”
One year later, Haiti still needs our help just as much as it did after the earthquake turned their lives upside down. On this day, whether it is for a brief moment in between classes, or attending Students for Global Health’s memorial event, please remember Haiti.