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Sunday, July 12, 2020

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Community reaches out to Haiti


The UH chapter of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was one of many organizations to hold relief efforts for Haiti. The group collected money, clothing and canned goods for the victims of the earthquake. | Voltaire Archelus/The Daily Cougar

As teams around the city are working to send aid to victims of the Haiti earthquake, students and faculty at UH are coming together to figure out how they can help.

Economics professor Thomas DeGregori is an expert on disaster relief, having written articles regarding Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and now the earthquake in Haiti.

DeGregori points out that in many cases people are more inclined to send items such as clothing or canned food after a natural disaster occurs. However, he argues that the most effective way for Houstonians to lend a hand to the victims of a crisis is actually just to reach into their pocketbooks and leave the decision-making up to the experts.

In his Jan. 5, 2005 article entitled “Tsunami: Tragedy as a Teacher,” DeGregori wrote, “It is far easier, once a reputable organization is identified, to go to the Internet and give a donation using your credit card than it is to search through the house for items and then haul them off to a collection center, where they will likely collect dust and do little if any good … giving money is both easier and more effective.”

Taking this into account, the Student Government Association has partnered with other student governments across the country in an initiative called “Stand With Haiti Fund Raising Challenge.”

They are working with Partners in Health — a non-profit organization that has had a presence in Haiti for over 20 years — to raise money for disaster relief.

They aren’t the only ones to get involved. Organizations across campus are collecting donations to send to Haiti, including the Metropolitan Volunteer Program and the UH chapter of the Black Student Union.

Music venues such as Warehouse Live and AvantGarden hosted Haiti benefit shows featuring local bands, with portions of the proceeds going directly to relief organizations.

Many local area businesses donated portions of their sales on specific days, including Carino’s Italian and Sugarbaby’s Cupcake Boutique.

Associate professor of world cultures and literatures Marie-Theresa Hernandez has done extensive studying on the history of Haiti and mourns this natural disaster as being just one more tragic offense to the Western Hemisphere’s poorest and most disadvantaged nation.

“Haiti’s problems have much to do with how the country was treated once it reached independence,” Hernandez said.

“For one, the church did not have a presence in Haiti for the first 80 years of the nation’s existence, so there were no priests or formal church services.  The United States, England and France refused to recognize Haiti.  They also established embargoes against Haiti.  All this made it impossible for Haiti to develop as a country in the way other new nations did.”

In the wake of the devastation, relief groups, including the American Red Cross, continue to accept donations for the victims of the earthquake.

“The country was not prepared for this type of disaster, and most of the buildings in (the capital) Port-au-Prince were not built to withstand earthquakes,” Hernandez said.

“It is really tragic that Haiti would have been hit with this disaster, considering the type of problems the people have to constantly face over there.”

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