Tuesday, Jan. 12, was a horrific day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Late that afternoon, an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 hit the city and left it in complete devastation.
The physical damage was immense and the death toll is still being determined as families wait in dread for workers to sort through the rubble.
All around the world, people’s eyes turned to the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and the response has been incredible. Even on Tech’s own campus, students have organized a way to send the country relief.
Gaelle Belhseine, first-year IAML, is a first generation Haitian-American student here at Tech. For Belhseine, the earthquake was and is really personal as some of her family still live in Haiti. After the quake hit, she immediately “wanted to help in any way possible,” Belhsein said, and she started talking to some of her friends about ways to do so.
Reginald Liger, fourth-year EE, is also a Haitian student that still has family in Haiti. Before the earthquake, he was already a member of the Caribbean Students Association (CaribSA) and so turned to them for support and ideas.
“They wanted to do a relief effort also so they gladly spearheaded this effort with me,” Liger said.
Through mutual friends, Belhseine and Liger met to discuss ways to get a relief effort started. Together, the two have started Angels for Haiti group as a branch of the Caribbean Students Association.
They, along with a group of other interested students, made a plan for collecting monetary and itemized aid for Haiti on campus. They have put boxes in all residence hall offices, held a candle lit vigil on the Jan. 14 for the incident and are collecting money at all home basketball games as well as on Skiles Walkway from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. everyday.
Many students and faculty attended the vigil that featured students sharing thoughts, songs and reciting poetry about the incident. President Peterson was also on hand to say a few words about the tragedy.
According to Belhseine, they have been met with an overwhelming response with over 200 volunteers a part of Angels for Haiti now.
“It’s exciting to see so many people coming out to help,” Belhseine said.
“The Georgia Tech community wanted to help Haiti, so their support came in droves,” Liger said.
The response from administration and other services has been tremendous as well.
“Thank you to all students and faculty for all your help and donations,” Belhseine said. She explained how both the Housing and Athletic departments have been extremely accommodating for the organization as well as the many off-campus and on-campus organizations that have contacted them wanting to donate.
As the poorest nation in this hemisphere, Haiti was in need of help even before the earthquake. The members of Angels for Haiti are trying to make the program a permanent organization in hopes of providing continuous support.
Once the destruction is cleaned up, it is hypothesized that the country will still require large amounts of support to raise the quality of life for its citizens.
In fact, due to its poverty and under-developed infrastructure, getting the nation put back together is becoming a difficult mission.
The monetary donations they are receiving will be going to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund to send to Haiti, while the itemized donations will go via Food for the Poor. They will be accepting the donations until Jan. 29. As a final endeavor, they are in the process of organizing a party to collect donations.
“The members of Angels for Haiti in conjunction with CaribSA [Caribbean Student Assocaition] simply felt we had to be angels. We wanted to be a part of Haiti’s answered prayer,” Liger said.