On January 12, Haiti was hit by one of the worst natural disasters in the impoverished nation's history. The earthquake, measuring 7.0 in magnitude, caused devastating infrastructural damage, leaving hundreds of thousands of people injured and without medical aid. The death toll has now hit 70,000.
In the wake of this disaster, U of T students have come together to help the victims. While student organizations raise money for earthquake relief, they also hope to open students' eyes to the social ills that plague Haiti on a daily basis. Haiti is not only a hot spot for natural disasters, but one of the poorest nations in the West due to its fragile social, economic, and political institutions.
“As students at U of T, we are equipped with various resources that help us to take initiatives to make a difference in our community and globally," said Maisha Syeda, president of the Kids can Free The Children (FTC) chapter at U of T. "We have the ability to inspire and motivate our society, and we can definitely play an active role in making positive changes."
FTC has joined forces with the New College Student Council (NCSC) to present the FTC Best Dance Crew. The January 28 event will raise funds for Haiti and the group's Adapt a Village Project. The Best Dance Crew will feature U of T and community dance teams who will compete in a friendly dance competition. The $12 registration fee will go toward the earthquake fund. FTC will also hold bake sales throughout the month of January.
Oxfam at U of T, a humanitarian aid and human rights organization, is also planning a bake sale and pub night in February. Their efforts are not purely monetary. “Oxfam is providing assistance on the ground in Haiti, focusing largely on providing clean water and sanitation,” said Co-President Anda Petro.
U of T will show its support for Haiti at “A Public Observance in Solidarity With the People of Haiti” on January 21 from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. in Hart House's Great Hall. The event will focus on the earthquake's impact and educate attendees on Haiti and Haitian culture.
Organizers aim to aspire solidarity and morale among Haitians and the U of T community during this troubled time. “The outcome of this event is twofold: to help people from the U of T community who have family in Haiti, while calling the university forward and together to see what we can do to help,” says Joan Griffin, Student Policy Initiatives Coordinator.
Guest speakers include Haitian-Canadian student Claire-Helen Heese-Boutin, Prof. Melanie Newton of the Department of History and Caribbean Studies, and Prof. Gage Averill, UTM Dean and ethnomusicologist specializing in Haitian music.
All members of the UofT community are encouraged to attend. While there are many student efforts to assist, this event also encourages participants to discuss how the university can contribute to rebuilding Haiti.