Student Groups Raise Awareness, Funds for Haiti

More than 35 Campus Organizations Joined Together to Form the Cal Haiti Coalition

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The recent earthquake in Haiti has spurred the development of increased coordination among campus student groups as well as with peer organizations at other universities throughout the country.

On the UC Berkeley campus, more than 35 student organizations, from the American Red Cross to the Suitcase Clinic, have formed the Cal Haiti Coalition to raise awareness and emergency funds. ASUC officials meanwhile said efforts are under way to increase collaboration with other student governments nationwide in order to increase fundraising resources for future disaster relief efforts.

"This is the culmination of a semester's worth of work," said ASUC Executive Vice President Tu Tran. "The tragedy brought us together. Everyone wanted to do something about it so we thought it would be beautiful if we could come together and collaborate on something."

Haiti was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12, which devastated the already impoverished nation. The What If? Foundation and the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, both Berkeley-based groups, have reported an upsurge in donations since the quake struck.

While fundraising efforts last week raised $1,137, according to Michael Bloch, an organizer for the Cal Haiti Coalition, current efforts among campus groups aim to raise $50,000 for disaster relief in Haiti by March 1, ASUC President Will Smelko said in a Feb. 4 campuswide e-mail to students.

Bloch said there were numerous benefits to increasing coordination between campus groups.

"You get all the manpower from the different organizations, more advertising and a lot more people attending than you could as individual groups," he said. "You get access to thousands of students around campus instead of a handful."

The collaborative effort also helps to increase creativity and idea sharing between different groups, according to Student Action Senator J.P. Shami.

"It's been kind of a collaborative decision on all projects, not just one person making decisions," he said.

The coalition among university governments is encouraging students to donate money to Partners in Health, which is a nonprofit organization founded in 1987 that provides medical supplies and services to communities without access to adequate healthcare.

A fundraising effort at Berkeley High School among concerned parents, staff and students raised more than $9,000 within 9 days last month for Partners in Health's relief efforts in Haiti.

According to Smelko, a planned summit that would bring together professional experts in a variety of fields to discuss further relief efforts for Haiti may become a reality by the end of the month.

"This is the beginning," said Yoori Chung, a representative on the Cal Service Board. "We need to keep doing this for Haiti."


Contact Amy Brooks at [email protected]

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