LabossierePierre Labossiere, board member, Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, and co-founder, Haiti Action Committee, at the Haiti Teach-in at USF on April 19.

Keeping Haiti In Focus

Written by Edward Carpenter »

As the media spotlight fades from Haiti following a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake there Jan. 12, the University of San Francisco held three spring events to call attention to the recovery and rebuilding still needing to take place.

An April 19 teach-in featured national speakers on the humanitarian response, and legal and medical systems, along with historical perspectives on Haiti’s culture, religion, and politics.

“Many people see the recent earthquake as a ‘natural disaster’ but there is nothing ‘natural’ about the disastrous level of poverty and appalling lack of infrastructure of every kind in Haiti before the earthquake,” said USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J. “These products of human decisions are largely responsible for the extent of the tragedy in Haiti.”

Though the earthquake killed more than 200,000 people in Haiti, few people know the framework in which the disaster occurred, said USF School of Law Dean Jeffrey Brand, who spearheaded the teach-in.

“It’s a catastrophic event that killed tens of thousands of people and happened in a context of impossible national debt loads, widespread poverty, a complicated U.S. engagement policy, and dysfunctional humanitarian aid distribution,” Brand said. “There are a whole host of issues that we must examine if we are to respond effectively.”

In addition to the teach-in, several USF School of Law students spent their spring break in Miami helping Haitians apply for temporary protected status (TPS) in the United States.

Students participated in cases involving immigration intake, submission, and U.S. citizenship application. Before finalizing applications, they spent three days in Miami’s Little Haiti handing out fliers, knocking on doors, and conducting client interviews, said law student Christine Start.

“Volunteering in Miami helping Haitian nationals apply for temporary protected status has been an incredibly educational and humbling experience,” Start said.

The program, designed by the University of Miami School of Law’s Health and Elder Law Clinic, offered practical experience for USF law students while serving Haitians affected by January’s earthquake.

USF also held a February bingo fundraiser with a goal of $10,000. More than 350 people attended the Feb. 26 student-organized event, buying more than 1,000 raffle tickets. All told, the relief fundraiser brought in more than $18,000, which was donated to Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.

JRS has used funds, such as those donated by the USF community, to provide emergency food relief to about 50,000 Haitians.

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