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IU offers cargo ship for Haiti donations


By Sarah Brubeck

There were 11 boxes of donated food and medical supplies sitting in the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies Thursday morning that director Bradley Levinson didn’t know what to do with.

But now a 20-foot cargo ship that the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation uses will be donated to transport the supplies to Haiti, Patrick O’Meara, IU vice president for international affairs, announced at Thursday’s Haiti forum.

Levinson had sent an e-mail the day after the earthquake stating that CLACS would be a donation site for Haiti relief items, but by the next day it became clear that the infrastructure was so damaged that it would be impossible to send food to Haiti, at least for a while.

“We knew that eventually we’d find a way, but now we know we can do it sooner and on a bigger scale,” Levinson said.

However, Beth Gazley, assistant professor of public and environmental affairs, warned that it’s possible to give gifts with negative effects, including drugs past their expiration date, used eye glasses, baby formula and used coats.

“Medicine and food are needed, but it’s better to allow agencies themselves to purchase the supplies,” Gazley said. “If you’re going to provide support through the container that will be sent, make it count. The best gift is a cash gift.”

Before the forum began, students passed out blue ribbons to show support for the country, an idea that was only being discussed Thursday over coffee as the brains behind the event sat in CLACS putting together the final details for the forum “Decoding Disaster: Understanding the Haiti Earthquake of 2010.”

Less than a week earlier, the same group of people first met to begin planning the forum and dividing into committees to plan other benefit events. Committees have emerged for benefit concerts and dinners, including a Caribbean benefit dinner on Feb. 17, Levinson said.

During the forum, Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan stressed that the needs in Haiti will outrun news coverage by a long shot, and that we’ve already witnessed a global failure by not investing in Haitian technology and infrastructure.

“Look at New Orleans: It’s still recovering, but we don’t hear about it except on the
anniversary of the event,” Kruzan said. “The problem is ignorance. I’m relatively in contact with representatives at the federal level, and I’ve never thought to bring up issues in Haiti. Now I will.”

David Tezil, a graduate student and Haitian Creole instructor, spoke of Haitian stories he has heard in the last week. One professor was found dead with a piece of chalk in his hand because he died while trying to teach college students.

“Tonight I can see your support toward the Haitian community. We can dream again,” he said. “I’m so grateful to be the voice of the Haitian people. They can’t say thank you.”

Both Tezil and graduate students Wideline Seraphin and Solfils Telfort spoke of the Haitians’ work ethic and how education is key to creating a better life for themselves. Seraphin said her mother, who was born in Haiti, never stopped working a day in her life, and her mother’s hopes are in her children’s futures.

“Being Haitian is something I wear as a badge of honor,” she said, while choking back tears. “We are Haitian, we are proud and we will keep going.”

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