MU students raise funds for Haiti

Many want to send support to the turmoil-stricken country.
Valerie Kaussen, an associate professor of French in the Romance Languages Department was conducting research in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit. Kaussen is encouraging students and faculty to donate money and supplies to various organizations giving aid to Haiti. Courtesy of Valerie Kaussen

Almost 10 days after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti, the initial shocks of the disaster still linger. Some of the turmoil has hit closer to home, affecting students and professors across campus.

Valerie Kaussen, an associate professor of French in the Romance Languages Department, was conducting research in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince when the earthquake shook the city.

"I didn't realize it was an earthquake — I'm from California, I know earthquakes, it felt like a particularly bumpy ride," Kaussen said. "But I did hear the loud noises, and I saw people falling in the street. I actually thought it was something else. I thought there was civil unrest. I had no idea."

Kaussen's mother was able to reach her on her cell phone an hour after the quake ended. That night, Kaussen stayed in an open plaza near government buildings with a group of Haitian citizens.

"Once it was nightfall, it was eerily calm except for praying," Kaussen said. "There was praying and singing, thousands of people singing in unison solidarity songs and religious songs all night long."

Although it pained her to leave, Kaussen said she would have only been taking food and water from Haitians who desperately needed it.

Now that she is back on campus, Kaussen is looking for ways to start fundraising and getting money to organizations in Haiti. Kaussen emphasized her desire to send money to established Haitian organizations that can continue to provide aid during the entire restoration process.

In Columbia, students are working to get aid to the people in Haiti. Challenged at an evening service Saturday, students involved with The Rock are raising money in conjunction with international relief organization Samaritan's Purse, which has pledged to match the money raised by the end of the week, up to $10,000.

Junior David Beach, an active member of The Rock, heard the challenge and immediately began organizing the effort. Early Sunday morning, Beach and freshman Stephanie Proffer organized a Facebook group to get the word out to friends.

"I was kind of hesitant, but I didn't realize how many people would be interested," Beach said.

The event, "Haiti Relief at Mizzou $10,000 Challenge," has more than 700 members and has raised more than $500.

"Usually Facebook is a way for me to get away from my homework," Proffer said. "But to actually do something productive that could change lives was a big change in that."

Although money is the main focus now, Beach said students might begin collecting supplies, such as food and clean water, necessities scarce in Haiti.

"I mean, it would be awesome if Brad Pitt or Sheryl Crow contacted us," Beach said. "But I have had responses from alumni and various students who have ideas to branch out in the future."

On campus, Beach and fellow students will continue to raise funds and work on ways to get either money or supplies to people still in Haiti.

"It's basically like I'm trying to run a not for profit organization in my spare time, which is really hard, but really kind of exciting and challenging," Beach said. "I mean, this is real money that's really going to be used to help people."

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