When Joelle Stanford was younger, her trips to Haiti consisted of spending time with her grandmother and cousins, running outside to play in the irresistible heat and enjoying delicious family dinners. As of January, her trip experiences have become a mission.
On Jan. 12 a 7.2 M earthquake rocked the island of Haiti. The massive destruction left 220,000 dead and more than 1.5 million homeless.
For the past eight months Stanford, a fourth-year biology student from Chicago and active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, has taken a few trips to Haiti. She has assisted her aunt, Carol Coupet, founder of United to Believe Inc. (U2B) in her efforts to assist those affected by the earthquake.
United to Believe is a non-profit organization based in Flossmoor, Ill. The mission of U2B is to enhance and empower lives of individuals in the U.S and abroad, especially those in underprivileged areas.
“This experience has been a true eye opener for me and it has made me appreciate the smaller things, I would like people to see this tragedy as I do,” said Stanford.
Coupet and Stanford have purchased land and goats and have distributed food and clothing to Haiti residents. This is not even half of their mission.
There are more than 1,100 refugee camps in Haiti, which are homes to more than 500,000 Haitian residents trying to get back on their feet. Unfortunately, those 1,100 camps are not enough.
The Beta Alpha chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. has teamed up with United to Believe Foundation to form Project Beta Alpha.
“Project Beta Alpha will introduce and raise awareness of the overwhelming need for support that is currently available for vulnerable families in Haiti,” said Stanford, chairwoman of Project Beta Alpha.
The initial plan of the non-profit organization is to raise money for supplies and necessities and establish self-sufficiency programs for several families.
“Some of the programs we have and plan to implement are goat farming, solar energy and water purification projects,” Stanford said. “We have already purchased nine goats.”
The purpose of the goat farm is to generate continuous revenue for Project BA. Once each goat reproduces, the baby goats will be sold for $200 each once they mature. The money raised from donations and fundraisers (such as the goat farm) will be used to invest in solar panels which will be used for lighting near the bathrooms and refugee tents. This will hopefully reduce the number of rape occurrences every night, Stanford said.
Ten members of Project BA and one advisor will travel to Haiti Dec. 12-18 to distribute food, clothing, shoes, school supplies, toiletries, and camping supplies. Workshops will also be facilitated which will emphasize health, hygiene, and child dental care.
The trip will cost the sorority about $5500 including airfare, lodging, and meal accommodations. They would like to raise $7000 to invest in water pumps and renewable energy. They are reaching out to fellow members and sending out sponsorship letters to other chapters within the organization asking for donations.
“I’m sending a letter to my church back at home and asking sorors to donate what they can,” said Jessica Davis, a senior business administration student and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Project BA has received food and monetary donations from the University of Chicago Hospital and other organizations throughout the country such as churches and other divisions of their organization.
The American Red Cross reported that $476 million has been raised to date for Haiti and one third of this money has been used for food and shelter. Project BA plans to utilize its money for more on-going projects.
Eventually the organization would like to relocate six families from the refugee camps to the land they have purchased next to the goat farm to get them back on their feet. Stanford says this will be the most challenging task because police enforcement is weak in Haiti and the evaluation process is rather tedious.
The organization is open to all donations and is encouraging all organizations to contribute to their movement.
If you or your organization would like to make a donation, checks and money orders can be sent to: P.O. Box. 6621 Tallahassee, Fla. 32314 or contact Baaka1932@yahoo.com.