Haiti Relief

Alternative Spring Break 2010

Barry University’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) student organization is a determined group of hard-working students intent on making the world a better place. They always have been; but this year’s group became a little more determined when disaster hit close to home.

During the summer of 2009, Legna Rodriguez, 09-10 President of the ASB organization, researched possible work project locations – homeless shelters in Washington, DC; literacy efforts in the Appalachian area; rebuilding organizations in a variety of locations. Rodriguez and other members finally settled on Galveston, Texas, working on Hurricane Ike Recovery, and immediately started planning fundraisers to support their trip.

ASB members worked throughout fall 2009 to raise the funds necessary to allow for about 20 Barry students to go to Galveston - over $6,000.00 by their budgeting calculations. Each participant made a donation, and, along with other students who volunteered to help ASB, worked at concession stands in Dolphin Stadium to raise about half the funding they needed. The executive board secured pledges for additional funding from various offices on-campus - the Vice President for Student Affairs, Campus Ministry, the Department of Student Activities and the Student Government Association.

That all changed on January 12, 2010. Immediately upon hearing of the earthquake in Haiti, Rodriguez and other ASB members started to discuss refocusing their plans to help closer to home. Due to the unprecedented disaster in Haiti, and in consideration of the very large Haitian population here in Miami, the group decided to open the opportunity to the entire Barry community and volunteer locally, in recognition and support of neighboring Haitian community.

When most of the Barry community was on vacation during spring Break, over 60 students, faculty and staff members gave time and effort to two local Haiti Relief projects. March 1, 2010, at Notre Dame d’Haiti, a Catholic Mission located in the Little Haiti area of Miami, about 20 Barry community members cleaned up and painted a long-neglected classroom building utilized for immigration seminars, English classes, and gathering space for the local Haitian community.

The original plan for March 2 – 4 was easy and fun, go to the Haitian Youth and Community Center of Florida, Inc. (HYCCF,) located on 83rd Street and NW 1st Avenue, help out in the pre-school and play with the children. HYCCF serves the local low-income population, with 143 students (mostly Haitian,) including some children who were orphaned in Haiti’s earthquake. That original plan soon changed. On their first day there, ASB members noticed the playground was in dire need of equipment and repair, and that classrooms had barely any books or other materials for the students. At playtime, about 20 pre-schoolers were sharing one tired, faded bouncing ball, there were two swing sets with no swings, and a slide and several other pieces of equipment that were so unstable, they were dangerous to the children. The kids mostly just chased each other around.

That same afternoon, while most participants engaged in the reflection session that ends each day of Alternative Spring Break, Rodriguez, along with Cherie Cancio, Clara Hoverman and Liliana Leon, who make up the ASB executive board, discussed the feasibility of offering to provide the Center with some supplies for their classrooms, as well as repair and paint the playground for the kids to enjoy. Making a firm decision to do what they could, the group approached the Center’s director, who was grateful to accept whatever was possible. So, a four-day project turned into five days, with many Barry students who had signed up to work for only one day committing to stay until the job was done.

On the morning of March 3, 30 Barry students gathered at 8am, waiting anxiously to be taken to the Center. The air was filled with excitement, enthusiasm, and a determination to help the children they had gotten to know already. At the Center, everyone listened to the plan for the day and went off diligently to complete each task assigned. As the group progressed with the project, they continued to find smaller tasks to complete – ASB members cleaned nap cots, repaired fences, cleaned windows and sorted donations collected by the Center to send to Haiti.

All told, Alternative Spring Break spent $1500.00 of the funds they had raised on repairs and supplies, and gave approximately 1,700 work hours to the Haitian Youth and Community Center of Florida, Inc. Those are the statistics. What can’t really be measured are the lessons learned that week, or the emotions felt by the ASB volunteers on Friday, March 5 when 143 children ran towards their brand new playground, including 20 new bouncing balls, and started climbing, swinging, bouncing, and, best of all – laughing.

Those who worked for ASB this year couldn’t go to Haiti to help rebuild the people and places broken down in the earthquake, so they did the next best thing. They helped rebuild some of the people and places broken down in the local Haitian community. They stood in solidarity with people who suffer from poverty and injustice. Ask any one of them, they will tell you it was worth every minute, and that they are the ones who are grateful.

The Barry University Haiti Relief Taskforce is now meeting bi-weekly to insure that Barry’s support and assistance efforts continue to provide the greatest positive impact possible. As we projected, critical needs have changed; therefore, the University’s responses have changed to continue to meet the most urgent needs.

Collections of Donations

Thank you for your overwhelming support for our collections of goods for Food for the Poor and money for Catholic Relief Services. We are humbled by your compassion and generosity. To date, the Barry Community has donated 10 truckloads of donated goods and $1800.00!

The last day we will be receiving donations for Food for the Poor is Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2010. If you wish to donate, please do so on or before that date; current dropoff locations on campus will be closed after that date. A list of items needed will remain on our website until then.

We will continue to collect:

  • money for Catholic Relief Services or you may still go directly to the CRS donation site
  • orthopedic supplies (canes, walkers, crutches) - the only drop off place will be at the De Porres Center for Community Service in Landon 108