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Students push Haiti aid

BY MICHELLE HILLENBRAND | JANUARY 22, 2010 7:30 AM

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Lucy Joseph remembers looking at her phone in shock.

“What are you talking about? There’s no such thing as earthquakes in the Caribbean,” she recalled thinking.

The second-year UI urban and regional planning graduate student received a text message Jan. 12 from her cousin Henry, who lives in the United States but whose mother lives in Haiti.

“There was an earthquake. 7.0,” the message read.

Joseph is one of many UI students with Haiti on their minds. But with family on both sides hailing from the poverty-stricken Caribbean country, she is closer than most to the tragedy.

And though Joseph said she would rather be with her family now, she also views it as an opportunity for Haitians on campus to educate others at the UI about their culture.

In fact, Joseph and several other Haitian students are looking to do just that. Working with Richard Geer, the IMU Food Service manager, they will hold a Haitian cuisine event next week.

The meal will feature traditional Haitian food, including a Haitian potato salad, chicken Creole, red beans and rice, and a pineapple carrot cake with a citrus glaze, Geer said. The goal is to raise money for Haiti.

The lunch will be held in the IMU Main Lounge from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 28, with proceeds going to the Cedar Rapids Red Cross. The cost will be $10 for students and community members.

Also next week, volunteers will drop off boxes around main campus buildings, including Burge, Mayflower, and the IMU, for a two-week drive to collect medical supplies and food. These supplies will later be sent to a Florida aid group, then continue on to Haiti.

Joseph, who is spearheading efforts at the UI, said she can still vividly recall the events of Jan. 12.
After viewing the wreckage on CNN, Joseph and her family still had no idea what the conditions were for their relatives, about 45 minutes from Port-au-Prince — the Haitian capital.

“There was nothing we could do but sit and wait,” Joseph said. “The biggest thing was to make sure our family were OK.”

Despite their anxiety and fears, Joseph didn’t hear from any family in Haiti for another two days.

And with faulty phone lines causing problems, even this correspondence wasn’t ideal. As Joseph’s cousin spoke on the phone with his mother in Haiti, the phones cut out, leaving the family with nothing but questions. Even now, Joseph has yet to hear from one of her aunts. Another aunt lost her home.

“This is not the way I would want people to know Haiti, as the place with the earthquake,” Joseph said.

Two UI students are from Haiti, though neither were there during the quake. Though Joseph is Haitian, she was born in the United States.

According to the American Red Cross, up to 3 million people have been affected by the earthquake. One hundred tons of aid are already in Haiti, with more arriving daily.

“As a whole, Eastern Iowa has been very generous,” said Jennifer Pickar, the director of communications for the Grant Wood Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Joseph encouraged UI students to get involved with relief in any way they can.

“Everything will help,” she said. “It will definitely be a long-term process.”


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