October 4, 2004

Ujamaa Sends Aid to Storm-Battered Caribbean

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With 200,000 people homeless in Haiti and 90 percent of Grenada destroyed, the devastation from Tropical Storm Jeanne and Hurricane Ivan on the Caribbean has served as an impetus for the Cornell community to unite for the relief of victims. “Tonight we’re talking about matters of life or death,” said John Rawlins ’06 to a packed lounge in Ujamaa Residential College last night, where students gathered to discuss raising funds.

And it seems Rawlins is right. People in some areas of Haiti have not eaten for a week, according to a New York Times article dated Sept. 28. Another Times article stated that approximately fifteen hundred people have died in Haiti as a result of Hurricane Ivan. Sanitary conditions are so poor that health workers fear an outbreak of cholera and other waterborne diseases to the already devastated victims.

“Jeanne most affected Haiti,” said Deven Gray ’06 to an audience whose majority comprised people of Caribbean descent. “Haiti had big issues with flooding: 30 hours of torrential rain, water rising 10 feet on city streets, houses wiped out and the ones that remained filled with dirt,” she added.

“Caribbean countries and U.N. have come together to try to support Grenada,” Gray continued. “But people are starving and have no water. This is a big situation and that’s why we need your help. There was a lot of media coverage initially … but this week it was hard to find out what was going on.”

After providing some general information, Gray turned to her audience, asking how they thought they could contribute. Gray, Rawlins and Dacia Beard ’05 fielded questions and comments.

One attendee suggested that students call their friends in other schools and convince them to spread the word, in order to create a broader base for support. Another wondered how they could safely convey whatever money and goods they collected over the next semester to Haiti.

“I personally don’t trust Haitian government people,” one student said. “But there are non-profit organizations that do care; there are other ways to send things besides through the government.”

One person suggested sending letters to local businesses asking for tax-deductible donations.

“Haiti is very poor,” someone pointed out. “Your dollar makes a tremendous difference. If it’s easy to go to Bear Necessities, then get some food to help. If you have a bunch of clothes you can’t fit into because of the freshman 15, then send them in!”

Students were also urged not only to offer monetary and material aid, but also personal support to students with affected families.

“I just want to be able to help in any way I can because I have family in Jamaica,” said Nakiyah Knibbs ’06.

Ujamaa will hold another meeting on Tuesday to begin putting students’ suggestions into action. In the meantime, fundraising will begin this week. Alpha Kappa Alpha will hold a bottled water collection throughout this week at the Robert Purcell Community Center and on Ho Plaza for victims who lack clean drinking water. Another initiative, Pennies for Water, started by Amanda Colon ’08, will place jugs in RPCC, Noyes Community Center and Appel Commons, where students can donate any monetary amount.

Ujamaa urges other Cornell organizations to participate in the cause; members will hand out more information in dining halls next week.

Archived article by Maya Rao
Sun Staff Writer