Little by little, Haitian students shared their sadness with peers and faculty members at an informal meeting Thursday at 3:30 p.m. hosted by the FAMU Campus Ministry.
Some students reported they were able to speak with their relatives, while others said they are praying to receive a text message or phone call to let them know they are alive.
In the middle of the meeting, sounds interrupted the conversation among students.
Suddenly one student said, “He doesn’t want to talk now Mr. Jones. Somebody just called him. His cousin just died,” said one student before leaving the building to counsel his devastated friend.
The FAMU administration chose Joseph V. Jones, FAMU Office of International Education Development interim assistant vice president, to help with Haitian-American students’ needs and concerns.
“We have to act as a unified front to be able to provide for our students in the middle of this tragedy. This initial meeting is to know how you are feeling, and to know if you guys have heard any news about your relatives,” Jones said.
The Florida A&M administration has called the entire student community to attend the second Haiti Relief meeting in the Lee Hall Auditorium 4 p.m. Friday.
The meeting will address how the committee can better assist Haitian-American students who lost their relatives due to the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck southern Haiti earlier this week.
So far, the earthquake caused approximately 200,000 casualties, destroyed about 10 percent of houses and has made President Obama send more than 300 U.S. military personnel to Haiti to help with rescue and recovery.
President James Ammons stated on the official FAMU Web site that the FAMU Foundation has started the FAMU-Haiti Relief Fund. The fund will help those who are facing economic disparities due the natural disaster.
Ammons told grieving students to seek console with the Haiti Relief Fund and to visit their Web site during the Martin Luther King convocation on Thursday morning.
In the meeting, students expressed their sadness regarding the well-being of their missing relatives. Many were frustrated because they have not spoken with their family or friends since the earthquake hit the island.
Campus and student organization members from the Counseling Center, Campus Ministry and Student Government Association expressed to students that they are more than welcome to stop by and get support during this time.
Calvin Hayes, 22, a junior public relations student from Orlando and vice president of the Student Government Association, encouraged students to keep the faith.
“God is in control. Have faith. Let us know how we can support you guys. If you guys need anything and it is in our power to help you, we will try to do it,” Hayes said.
The Haitian Culture Club vice president, Rodeline Felix, 21, a political science junior from Pompano Beach, Fla., said that the organization is encouraging students from FSU and TCC to join FAMU in attempt to increase the number of items collected and sent to Haiti.
“Andremene [the club’s president] and I will address tomorrow’s meeting a need to other schools organizations and clubs engage in our donation drive to help two companies that we chose, Savaca and Relief of Haiti,” said Felix.
Relief for Haiti is a non-profit organization which motto is “to raise funds, plan and implement direct change by providing resources to better the lives of impoverished Haitians,” according to ReliefforHaiti.com.
FAMU WANM- 90.5 radio station is also engaged in spreading news and updates from Haiti to the many Haitian-Americans in Tallahassee as well as ensure that all money fundraised by local organizations go to the right destination once it departures American soil.
Andy St. Hilaire, 23, a senior political science from Miami, Fla., is also a WANM-90.5 radio personality and producer. He explained how the station is helping Haiti’s earthquake victims.
“First we need to find a way to build a communication, focus on how to get money and find aid, then we need to have a pipeline, find people in higher positions to deliver directly for the victims,” said St. Hilaire.
Students were engaging in their own campaigns to fundraise as many items as possible. In front of the student union building, three students started their own fundraising campaigns with purple, blue and orange banners in which one could read “please donate.”
“Anybody can help. Do it for the goodness in your heart. You can help in many ways. You can give $1, time, help someone,” said Shingta Desinord, 22, a senior psychology student from Fort Lauderdale.
Jones concluded the meeting by requesting the FAMU community to attend the second meeting tomorrow and give suggestions and ideas to the committee to determine how to better assesses the earthquake’s victims and families needs.