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Giving Relief to Haiti

There is an oft-quoted line from an Ancient Greek poet named Aeschylus who once wrote, “even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

In essence, within the depths of tragedy, we usually find the shining light of wisdom and humanity at its strongest. We have found this to be true during many of our own country’s times of need. Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina to name a few. Earlier this month, the world added another event to this list of events we would have rather never happened.

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, the country of Haiti was rocked by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake. Earthquakes are not an uncommon occurrence in our world. What made this earthquake disastrous, as it was stated in news throughout the ongoing coverage of this deadly force, was the fact that the earthquake occurred 5 miles below the ocean’s surface.

In a moment of terror that lasted seconds, 45 seconds to be exact, a whole country was transformed from a functioning society into a canvas of destruction and sorrow. According to the CIA Factbook, there are approximately 9 million people who call the grounds of Haiti home. Of those 9 million people, 2 million people reside in the capital city of Port-au-Prince according to National Geographic. The death toll from this earthquake has been catastrophic.

It is the city of Port-au-Prince that took the brunt of the earthquake. What was once a city is now a pile of debris. Much of the city was destroyed and leveled by the earthquake. Many of the buildings simply could not take the volatile shaking of the earthquake.

Over the course of the past few weeks, we have watched the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, play out in front of our very eyes. There are people, in Haiti, walking around in state of shock.

You can read their thoughts by looking into their eyes. In their eyes, there is despair and anguish. There is bewilderment as they try to comprehend how everything that they knew could have collapsed in 45 seconds of sheer terror. They look at what used to be their world. While it is true that Haiti was poor before the earthquake, the people of Haiti at least had some semblance of a country. Now, it lies in ruins.

Over the past few weeks, we have been forced to see images that many of us would rather want to be spared from seeing. It rips at the strings of the heart to see a small child lying on a gurney out in the street and to know that, even with supplies being shipped in from abroad, medical care for the injured is no where near adequate.

For many, seeing this tragedy unfold turned into a call of action. Seeing fellow humans suffer through no makings of their own has touched the hearts of many to go out and do what they can to help the people of Haiti rebuild their country.

Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, will not be able to get on its feet alone. They simply do not have the resources. That is where we, the rest of the world, come in. It will be from the aid of the common man and woman that Haiti will be rebuilt.

Now, as a University of Massachusetts student, you may be wondering what you can do to help. The answer is simple: donate. Donate whatever you can and want to. You can donate food and medical supplies. You can donate blankets and clothing. Even donating money helps. Haiti needs every ounce of support that they can get.

All you need to do is walk down to the Campus Center. There are student groups on the concourse that are taking donations to send to Haiti. There are also many building-wide initiatives in the Residence Life halls to help raise money for these victims. One can also donate through the American Red Cross.

Anything that you can donate will be of great help. On the official White House website, there is a link to donate to a relief organization set up by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at ClintonBushHaitiFund.org.

In an e-mail sent out shortly following the earthquake, UMass Chancellor Robert C. Holub included an internet link for those interested with working for the International Red Cross. Students can join in relief efforts to gather supplies for Haiti. You could even go down to Haiti to help in the relief effort independently.

Whether you are donating at a national level, local level or simply through support groups on campus, the support that you are giving is just as important as the next person’s.

What matters in the end is that we are there to support people who need the most. One can help, even in the simplest form, by keeping the people of Haiti in your thoughts. They need support now more than ever.

Matt Kushi is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at mkushi@student.umass.edu.

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