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Locals respond to Haiti

BY ALYSSA CASHMAN | JANUARY 18, 2010 7:30 AM

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Jared Krauss’ spring break plans have changed.

Galvanized by the recent 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti, he now plans to travel to the impoverished nation to help with recovery.

“I really want to get out there and have a positive impact,” the UI freshman said. “I get fed up with people moaning about what’s going on … go do something about it.”

Krauss, 19, has received a few responses from other interested students, and he is working with a student at Florida State University on the trip. Though they haven’t completed the planning, Krauss said he hopes to attract more students to join him, and he intends to begin fundraising efforts soon.

Krauss isn’t the only member of the UI community becoming involved in relief efforts.

UI students have spearheaded many Facebook groups calling for donations and planning service trips to the country. Two UI students hail from Haiti, but they were not in their home nation at the time of the quake.

Around 50,000 people are presumed dead, and another 3 million were affected by the Jan. 12 quake, according to the most recent estimates from the State Department.

UI employees are also working to raise awareness about the tragedy.

Christopher Buresh, a doctor at the UI Hospitals and Clinics, has traveled to Haiti twice a year for the past seven years to provide health care to Haitians in and around the city of Leogane. He returned from his most recent trip on Jan. 9, just days before the earthquake struck.

By Wednesday, he hopes to be back in Haiti.

“My team hasn’t slept,” he said. “We’ve been working the phones and gathering supplies. The amazing response has been heartwarming.”

Support and donations from neighbors, friends, and colleagues have poured in. The trunk of his car is full of bandages, and the pile of donation checks grows every day.

“I can hardly get in my house anymore,” he joked.

While Buresh was in good spirits, the week following the quake has been tough. He has yet to hear from all of his friends in the country, and recently he learned a woman he had worked with in Haiti was killed.

“That was the first time I really broke down,” he said. “It just makes me sick to my stomach.”

While he has a personal connection to the country, UI officials are encouraging everyone to help the struggling nation.

A mass e-mail sent to all members of the UI community suggested ways people could help those suffering.

“In the coming days and weeks, as citizens of the world, we must offer more than our sympathies; we must become actively involved in assistance efforts,” Downing Thomas, the dean of international programs, said in the e-mail.

UI officials set up a website with links to information on how to help with the disaster. Though no specific fund has been started at the university, Thomas said those agencies with the resources to respond to the immediate need would be the best place to direct donations.

Buresh echoed that sentiment.

“I know people really want to get involved, and it can be frustrating, but right now the best way to do that is to just donate money or supplies,” the 34-year-old said.


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