By Samantha Pergadia ’11
On Jan. 12 Miriam Camara ’10 was surfing the Web when she stumbled upon news of the Haiti earthquake on Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell’s Twitter account. Although Camara was raised in New York, her mother is from Haiti and has strong ties to the many members of her family in Port-au-Prince. “I called my mother immediately and she was in tears,” Camara said.
Camara, who lost two uncles in the disaster, worked with two other Haitian-American students, Astrid Rousseau ’10 and Emmanuelle Pierre ’10, to help plan a series of campus activities in support of Haitian relief efforts. A bake sale in Frist Campus Center raised $1,200 in three days immediately following the earthquake, and fundraising by the Undergraduate Student Government to support Partners in Health reached nearly $8,000.
The University’s Faculty and Staff Assistance Program offered free counseling services in the wake of the earthquake. According to Alison Nelson, director of benefits, at least 10 staff members used the counseling services. “There were those looking for ways to assist relatives and friends, and many employees who were distraught and in tears over this situation,” Nelson said. Haitian members of the University community formed a committee for support and communication. “The emotions are now best characterized as a strong determination to go to Haiti and support the rebuilding process,” said Pierre Joanis, director of labor relations.
Haitian Awareness Week was held in early February; campus events included a film screening of The Ghosts of Cite Soleil, which Camara describes as “a crash course in what daily life in Haiti was like”; a lecture by professor emeritus Leon-Francois Hoffmann about the political and social culture of Haiti; and a panel of students and staff with Haitian ties. The Princeton Salsa Club and the Graduate College House Committee sponsored a Caribbean fundraising party at the D-Bar, while the Student Global AIDS campaign partnered with Sexual Health Peer Advisers in selling Valentine’s Day items to benefit Partners in Health.
The student Black Arts Company sponsored a benefit event at Richardson Auditorium that featured performances by several Princeton dance and music groups, including Old NasSoul, DiSiac, and eXpressions. A fundraising semiformal at Campus Club attracted more than 80 students and featured dancing and a traditional Haitian dinner.
“I think that the overall activist sentiment of Princeton students is still outstandingly high,” said Camara, who said she continues to hear from students looking to join potential service trips or fundraising activities. The Princeton University Orchestra will offer a pair of concerts April 23 and 24 at 8 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium as a memorial to the earthquake victims. A portion of the proceeds from the concert will be donated to the relief efforts.