As some of you know, next week I will be spending spring break in Haiti, leading a group of law students called the Fordham Law Disaster Relief Network (“DRN”). DRN was founded by law students in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and previously focused its efforts on relief trips to the Gulf Coast. To that end, we have organized and led ten week-long trips to the region and worked with a number of local groups to clean up, rebuild, and revitalize Gulf communities.
After the recent massive earthquake, DRN looked into just how we could assist in the Haitian rebuilding effort. We met and talked with hundreds of individuals and organizations to see how a group of law students could help the people of Haiti. To that end we have spent the past few weeks assisting Haitian with immigration/visa applications, but wanted to contribute more. We quickly learned that, though the UN and large organizations are focusing on medical and nutritional needs, local Haitians feel the biggest problems are psychological. The hardest problems to hear about all involve young kids. Thousands of children are newly orphaned, with the eldest sibling left to play bread-winner, doctor, leader, confident, and rock. Moreover, schools are still closed and children are left without the one non-familial, community institution where they can address their problems. As one person put it: every single person is dealing with such intense emotional issues that they are barely able to help their fellow Haitians cope physically let alone psychologically.
DRN’s trip is designed to help out the Haitian. In order to help, we have partnered with an organization called Voices for Haiti (VFH — http://voicesforhaiti.org/) to reopen a local school and run a summer camp/summer school type program. For several years preceding the earthquake, VFH has been intimately involved in Haiti relief around the city of Cabaret–on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. While in Haiti, we will be staffing a local hospital, brining the school teachers back in, running light classes in the mornings and games all afternoon, and (most importantly) doing our best to help kids worry about something other than basic needs–like why Americans call it soccer. We’ve been told that, as nonHaitians, one of the the best things we can do is listen to stories, joke and play with kids, and remind Haitians that they are not alone.
So on behalf of DRN, I am asking you to donate what you can to support our trip. Your money will not be used toward defraying travel expenses (Joe, Judy, and the Department of Education’s loan programs are handling that) or on any overhead (thats what Fordham University is for). Rather, it will provide food, medicine, and recreational equipment for the children of Cabaret. Further, if your donations allow, we hope to begin construction of a public park, including a soccer field and basketball courts, that will provide a lasting impact long after our trip has ended. We have already got the city to donate the open space but the estimated cost just to begin construction is $5000.
In spite of the short notice, our goal is to raise $25,000 to create an immediate and lasting impact on the lives of the people of Haiti. Any assistance–no matter how small–is greatly appreciated and critical to ensuring the success of our upcoming work in Haiti. If you are not looking for a tax write-off all donations can be made online through the DRN website:http://fordhamdrn.blogspot.com/. Just select how much you would like to donate from the drop down menu and click the button. If you are looking for a tax write-off please email me directly. Attached you will find the official donation request from the University (for tax purposes). It may take a few weeks to process the tax-deductible donation through the University but if we have a donation pledge prior to leaving we can use the money in Haiti.
I will be leaving on Friday morning and, just to alleviate any concerns (I know my mom had them), security and medical concerns for everyone going on the trip have all been addressed–the law school wouldnt let us go if anything else was the case. If you are interested, you can follow the trip on our blog: http://fordhamdrn.blogspot.com/. I’ll do my best to update if from Haiti as we go.