Student group aims to help Haiti

A group of UAF students, Help Haiti Fairbanks, meet for the first time in College Coffeehouse. Photo by Sarah Richards/The Sun Star

By Sarah Richards
Sun Star Reporter

Campus organizations are working with local groups to provide aid to Haiti after this month’s devastating 7.0 earthquake. The European Commission estimates that the disaster may have left as many as 200,000 people dead; 50,000 injured and 2 million homeless.

“The Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity and the Leadership Program are on the initial stage of networking with various student groups on campus and in our Fairbanks community to see how we can help make a difference,” said Ana Richards from the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity.

She added that recently, ASUAF President Todd Vorisek and fellow student David Spencer made the commitment to lead UAF students in fundraising plans. That group has come to be known as Help Haiti Fairbanks.

They are currently in the planning process, but proposals include holding a concert at the Blue Loon and soliciting donations by knocking on doors and standing at storefronts. Volunteers will be asking for donations, selling t-shirts, and working with the Loon to raise money by selling Haitian alcoholic beverages, Vorisek said. He later noted that the group may make adjustments with further meetings.

Volunteers are planning to stand outside of Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Walmart on Friday and Saturday evenings. “Those are heavy shopping hours,” Vorisek said. Usibelli Coal Mine and Northern Power Sports have verbally agreed to contribute some matching funds, so efforts are being made to sign a contract with both companies.

The concert will be held on either Feb. 20 or 26, and the funds will be officially transferred to the organizations in early March.

The money will tentatively be split between Partners in Health, a Boston-based aid organization with over 20 years of Haitian health care experience, and Mercy Corps, an established, multi-discipline relief group based in Portland. “For simplicity’s sake, we decided to donate to one medical organization and one structural charity,” Vorisek said.

Vorisek emphasized that, at this point, all plans are tentative and subject to change.

“We need people in Fairbanks to get involved,” Vorisek said. Meetings are being held Sundays at 6 p.m. in the College Coffeehouse on the corner of College Road and University Avenue.  Anyone interested in attending is welcome, he said. People can also join the Facebook group, Help Haiti Fairbanks, to learn how they can help.

“We are collaborating and working together, supporting them in whatever they choose to do,” Richards said. “The Leadership Program does not yet have any set plans because they need to connect with the students.” She said that there have been a number of campus clubs that have expressed interest in helping to provide aid and “I think with ASUAF involved more clubs are going to join us.”

“As long as somebody is doing something,” Richards said. “Each little thing helps and gives us a sense of responsibility. This is a wonderful education opportunity.”

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