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Skidmore responds to crisis in Haiti

Posted: 02/26/2010

The devastating earthquake struck Haiti in January, when the Skidmore campus was on winter break. But it was news that resonated throughout the campus community and galvanized action at the start of the spring semester.

Since then, there has been a steady level of academic and co-curricular activity that has helped to keep the Haitian people in the hearts and minds of Skidmore’s students, faculty, and staff. For starters, nearly 300 Skidmore students, faculty, staff and alumni have joined a Facebook group called "SkidCares-Haiti," where anyone from the Skidmore community can make suggestions or provide news about what they are already doing. You'll find it here.

Less than a week into the spring semester, Jordana Dym, director of the Latin American Studies Program and an associate professor of history, suggested a general meeting where all interested could gather to share ideas and information, and coordinate efforts. One of the first large-scale events arising from that meeting was a campus teach-in. Led by Winston Grady-Willis, director of intercultural studies and associate professor of American Studies, and Dym, the event featured remarks from several faculty and staff members, music, updates from student groups, and an open mic for those interested in sharing their thoughts. Faculty also were encouraged to spend time in their classes to discuss the earthquake and relief efforts with their students.

In addition, Skidmore welcomed the Rev. Philippe Joseph of Fonkozé, a respected micro financing institution in Haiti that serves the needs of the poor, during his tour of several Capital Region colleges and churches.

Fund raising has been a top priority and Skidmore’s students have been especially creative in their response to this challenge. The SGA held a “garage sale” during the spring club fair, and raised approximately $500. SGA President Raina Bretan ‘10 said that the event was a perfect way to eliminate a number of items that had been accumulating in the SGA storage closet. “There was such a desire to help on campus and so much student outreach that I knew, if properly promoted, the event would work—and it did,” said Bretan. Other funds were collected by the Breakbeats, a student club that collected about $300 during a recent social event.

The largest fund-raiser for Haiti to date was “Harmony for Haiti,” a student-organized concert featuring primarily student music groups and held in the new Zankel Music Center. Coordinated by Anni Satinover ‘11, a member of the Skidmore Accents, the event drew an enthusiastic crowd of 600 and raised about $3,500. Read more about the event here.

Responding to the needs of Haiti and its people will continue throughout the spring. Reports Bretan, “Currently we are collecting tents. We have reached out to the students and to local businesses to contribute. We have collected more than 12 tents in just less than a week. We expect more to come. At the Haiti teach in, students explained that they were concerned that once Haiti dissipated from the news that Skidmore's efforts would, too. In an effort to circumvent those fears, SGA is working with Benef Action and the Running Club to coordinate a 5K run in the spring, to keep interests high.”

Photos by: Sam Brook ’12, Korlarp Suwacharangkul ’10, Savannah Grier ’12 and Carolyn Raider ’10