January 15, 2010

Haitian Flag

The Amherst College community is deeply saddened by the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Haiti in the aftermath of the recent earthquake that devastated the region. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to all those affected by this terrible tragedy. We are currently gathering information about how Amherst students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends are responding to the crisis and are eager to share effective ways to help those who need our support.

Communication with Haiti remains very challenging, and we will provide further information as and when we can.

Haiti Hunger Banquet to Highlight Diet Disparities

April 2, 2010

Most diners at the Hunger Banquet being held Wednesday at Amherst College will be eating rice and beans on the floor, but a select few will be served griot, a grilled pork dish, accompanied by other upscale Haitian delicacies.

The disparity highlights income and dietary differences in most of the developing world. And it’s the concept for a fundraiser being sponsored by various groups at Amherst College on Wednesday April 7, at 6 p.m. in Lewis Sebring Dining Hall. The suggested donation for the dinner is $5. Read more...

Mead Art Museum to Exhibit Haitian Art

Haitian Art at the Mead Art Museum

January 22, 2010

Students in the museum’s volunteer docents program will speak about the Mead’s Haitian art collection in a free public event on Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m.

Amherst Alumni Involved in Many Ways

Updated January 27, 2010

image Tell us how you are helping the Haiti relief effort.

Whether through financial contributions to worthy organizations, hands-on work in Port-au-Prince, or logistical support at the United Nations, Amherst College alumni are responding to the Haitian earthquake crisis in various ways.

While students, faculty and staff have begun planning fundraisers and other campus-wide responses to the humanitarian crisis, several alumni are deeply involved already in raising money and providing relief there.

For example, Abbey Gardner ’89 is working at the United Nations as a senior advisor in the Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti. She’s one of three staff members appointed by Paul Farmer HON ’05, the physician and anthropologist who founded Partners in Health, and who is now the U.N.’s deputy special envoy for Haiti. Farmer was appointed in September by Bill Clinton, who in May became the U.N.’s special envoy to Haiti. Gardner was one of three staff members Farmer recruited. She was in her New York City U.N. office when the earthquake hit.

Gardner’s office is working to coordinate efforts to rebuild the country, working closely with governments, foundations, non-governmental organizations and groups such as the European Commission and the World Bank. “We’re also trying to encourage foundations and private companies to make long-term investments in the country,” she says, “and to find creative solutions to the many challenges there.”

In the short-term, Gardner says the U.N. is trying to answer a question that many people, including Amherst students, are asking: Which NGOs are flying under the radar, but are close to the ground, doing good work and worthy of financial support?

“We’re getting asked that question multiple times daily: Who really is doing good work on the ground?,” Gardner says. “For example, we are aware that Partners in Health is a small—well, maybe not small anymore—nimble NGO with real institutional ties to the Haitian public sector. There are organizations like Fonkoze, a micro-credit institution that provides support to the rural poor that is extremely well-regarded. There are many, many other NGOs that are doing excellent work on the ground, some that everyone is aware of, but also many smaller ones that have not received any publicity. Knowing which groups are most effective on the ground is extremely important, and maybe there would be a student role in looking critically and realistically at the work the NGOs are doing.”

Gardner’s office will be ramping up a website, www.haitispecialenvoy.org, to report on aid commitments being made by countries, foundations, NGOs and corporations and to provide up-to-date information on the relief effort.
“Through this office and through President Clinton, we want to make that information transparent,” she says.

Like others thrust into this sudden and sometimes overwhelming relief effort, Gardner has experienced a surge of various and conflicting emotions, including sorrow at all the lives that have been lost. Still, there is reason for optimism, she says.

“I think we have to be optimistic that the levels of commitment will remain strong, and remain strong for the next decade,” she says. “There will have to be a reconstruction and development plan for Haiti that supports the Haitian government in the long term. Recovery efforts in Haiti have never seen as much attention or public compassion from the entire globe as they are receiving now. The challenge is to harness that and work with the Haitian government to build Haiti back—and build it back better.”

We’ve asked alumni to write to us about their involvement with the Haitian earthquake recovery. Below is a selection of their responses. 

David Blenko ’76: I am chief development officer of HOPE worldwide, which is working on Haiti disaster relief. An associate of mine on the ground in the country was struck by the magnitude of the destruction there. The toll has been high in human terms. Our church affiliate in Haiti reports at least 12 confirmed deaths, with many in the congregation still missing. As you are no doubt reading in the news, there are major logistical problems with getting aid, financial and otherwise, into the country. Security is also an issue. Estimates I have heard are that the rebuilding of the country may take 20 years—in other words, a generation or more. We are updating our website, www.hopeww.org, as information filters out.

This is a time for those of us who have been so richly blessed to give generously to support those who are really hurting. It has been encouraging to see the outpouring of support to date.

Richard André ’09 wrote “A Haitian-American Perspective: Resilience in the Face of Tragedy.” André is an intern at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas.

Margaret (Wilson) Spencer ’91: My brother Scott Wilson ’88 is covering the Haitian crisis as senior correspondent for the Washington Post. I am volunteering for a non-profit called Direct Relief International, based in Santa Barbara, Calif., where our aid efficacy is 99 percent.

We had a bequest where all administrative costs are already funded. Therefore, 100 percent of our relief money goes directly to relief. We send medicine only, which has been donated by pharmaceutical sponsors. We have partnered with Partners in Health for years and our relief seems to be getting to some of these facilities.

A relief partner in Laos asked DRI to redirect the container of medicine [we’d sent them] to Haiti as it seemed to the Laotians the Haitians need the relief more right now.

Phil Knowles ’51: I’m always interested in Haiti, since visiting Port-au-Prince twice with the Navy in the early ’50s. When President Clinton sent 20,000 troops to Haiti in 1994, I wanted to see how that was proceeding. I went with a religious group for two weeks in January 1995. It was an incredible experience. Since then, I’ve visited on my own about four times, and I track current events through a Haiti e-mail forum. ... I have some very dear friends in Haiti, all of whom seem to have survived the quake. Although I’m not planning to go to Haiti right now, I've made some contributions and am following events on several blogs and e-mail threads.

Paul Casey ’74: I am the executive director for the Colorado Haiti Project, [which does] sustainable development in rural Haiti, west of Port-au-Prince on the southern peninsula. I am going to be leaving soon as part of a small assessment team to go into our area and determine needs and most effective response. Meanwhile, several people connected with the project are either in or en route to Port-au-Prince as part of emergency medical relief.

Nick Doty ’06: Sam Ender ’01E works with Partners in Health here in the U.S. She’s been working 16-hour days since the quake.

Tene A. Howard ’01: I am helping my students to organize a benefit fundraiser for Haiti [the Haiti Solidarity Benefit, to be held Jan. 22 at 5 p.m. at the Prospect Heights Campus Auditorium in Brooklyn, N.Y.].

Manahil Shahnawaz ’03: I work for a non-profit organization called Humanity First USA that focuses on disaster relief and setting up community building projects in the less-privileged regions of the world. Currently we are carrying out a major fundraising campaign for Haiti and have simultaneously dispatched our disaster response team to the affected areas.

Bruce Wolf ’77: Attempted to go down to Haiti and provide medical care through the auspices of the NGO, World Vision. Went to Miami, where I sat in a hangar for a couple of days with 50 other physicians from around the country. Half of the doctors (mostly surgeons, anesthesiologists and ER docs) were flown in on small planes to Port-au-Prince; the rest of us were repeatedly denied clearance to (fly and) land. As my window of volunteerism was not open-ended, I flew back after a few days of frustrated waiting.

Rebecca Oyen ’09: I’m helping to organize a hunger banquet for Haiti Relief at University of Chicago on Saturday, January 30. Please see www.faithsactfellows.org/rebecca for more information and to RSVP.

Rev. Jean-Luc Charles ’94:  1) The brief of it is this: ---My aunt Jocelyn and uncle Aurelus run a School L'Institution Mixte Les Gedeon in P-a-P at Delmas 31 Rue Nissage Saget. My father pastors a Haitian church in Stamford CT with 500 members. I was until recently on the board of an American organization (Family Health Ministries, www.familyhm.org working in Haiti) and I am the Director of Missions for White Rock Baptist Church in Durham NC. So I've been pretty involved in Haiti the last 5 years.
Personally my family has lost at least 10 members (mother's side) and the count is rising. My aunt and uncle are currently sheltering over 500 people in their church compound in PaP.
2) Someone asked about small ngo's working on the ground. I would nominate HaitiOne (www.haitione.org) and Family Health Ministries (www.familyhm.org) and Mission de L'Espoir (I don't have web info for them but here is contact info in Haiti
Mission of Hope
#777 Route National #1
Titanyen, Haiti
St. Marc Jean Lubin
phone: 509-513-4909
cell: 509-408-6171)

Thank you,
Rev. Jean-Luc Charles 

Captain Stephen P. McInerney (Mac) '82:  Saturday, Jan. 16. I am in the airport in Haiti, coordinating the distribution of supplies out in town via Navy helicopter. We are getting a lot of supplies from throughout the planet, and overcoming difficulties getting it out of the airport.  The devastation of parts of town is incredible.  This will be a long term relief effort and require extended financial support of a NGOs and relief agencies.

Stephen McInerney '82
Deputy Commander

Thursday, January 21: A quick update. Still operating with the same sense of urgency, just with less of the chaotic wasting of effort.

Things have been manhandled into a command and control structure that will work down here. We merged the Navy efforts with the the Air Force Special Operation support that arrived the day after the quake.  They have the computers and liasion personnel to coordinate the dozens of moving pieces.  We augment their aircraft loading and unloading crews with Sailors from the VINSON who fly in to work and fly back to the boat at the end of their 12 hour shift. The NGO's and USAID people have begun to trust us.  If we can get some order established at a few sites in town we can start unleashing some significant supplies.  We have begun deliveries out of town.  The two Air Force airdrops have gone well.

Supplies are arriving, but the crew of the COMFORT are trying to triage a medical catastrophe out in town. Aready maxed out the ship hospitals.  82nd Airborne are trying to clear landing sites for supply distribution, but everywhere they go attracts a crowd of people looking for food, stopping progress. Had to stop resupply flights to the main stadium for crowd control problems.   Number of people leaving Haiti getting larger.  Lines for visas at Embassy still depressingly long. This is starting to sound like a telegram, but my brain has stopped working in sentences.  Stop.  Better end this.  This is going to be a long night.


Dick Hubert ’60 and 50th Reunion Program Chairman:

Amherst Alumni:

Let me put in a plug for our 1960 classmate Dr. Mike Taylor, who founded the Konbit Sante Cap-Haitien Health Partnership in 2000, and is in the news in a major way.  As a result of the Haitian earthquake there have been significant fund raising efforts in Mike's home city of Portland, Maine to provide emergency funding for Mike's 25 person (staff) Cap-Haitien clinic, which he tells me is being overwhelmed by refugees seeking help from elsewhere in the country.
Get the latest news from Mike’s clinic with photos on the clinic’s web site.

And as you’ll see, donations are welcome. The city of Portland, Maine has been unusually generous in its support of konbitsante, but I am sure Mike, who's probably too busy to check in at this Amherst site, would welcome the financial help on behalf of his overworked and terribly stressed colleagues.

Jim Ansara ’82: Jim and his wife Karen were featured in a front-page Boston Globe article for their efforts to help in Haiti, both on the ground in Port-au-Prince and back home in the Boston area.

From the article:

"Jim Ansara, a sturdy, 52-year-old former electrician from Boston, made his way to the devastated main hospital in the Haitian capital four days after the earthquake and went to work amid piles of lifeless bodies.

He found small generators and got them working. He spliced wires to light the makeshift operating rooms. He helped move patients around. For 12 days, working with Americans and Haitians, doctors and nurses, and hospital maintenance workers, he helped bring some order to the turmoil.

It’s a safe bet that none of the Haitians packed into the wrecked hospital complex had a clue that Ansara is a multimillionaire construction magnate who, with his wife, Karen, pledged $1 million from their personal fortune to help Haitians recover, and that while Jim was reviving generators in Port-au-Prince, Karen was back in Boston pumping donors to match their gift.

Ansara, who built one of the nation’s largest construction companies from scratch, and his wife, who spent years expanding the horizons of Boston fund-raising, have become powerful forces in Haiti’s recovery and rebuilding."

image Tell us how you are helping the Haiti relief effort.