Haiti relief fund tops $16,000

March 5, 2010

Luther College students have raised more than $16,000 in phase one of the Luther Student Senate’s two-part Haiti Relief Fund drive.   

During the first phase of the fundraising effort that closed on Feb. 24, the Luther College Student Senate Emergency Committee (LCSEC), along with the Luther College football team, Decorah community and Luther faculty and staff, coordinated a series of events to raise awareness of the earthquake that devastated Haiti on Jan. 12.    

Leaders of the college’s Haiti Relief Fund drive include students William Montoya, Amelia Kundel, Adriana Diaz, Lynne McMullen and Junette Maxis, a native of Haiti. Staff coordinator of many of the phase one projects was Benny Boyd, Luther assistant football coach and instructor in physical education.  

All proceeds collected during phase one of the Haiti Relief Fund drive were sent to Haiti through the ELCA in honor of Benjamin Larson, Luther class of ’06, who was killed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.     

One of the five fundraising events included a Jan. 25 telethon that raised more than $13,500 during the one-day, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. calling period. The telethon was conducted by the Luther football team and coordinated by Boyd in conjunction with KVIK radio, of Decorah.     

“I want to sincerely thank all those who contributed to the relief efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake,” said Boyd. “The Luther College community, the community of Decorah and the surrounding areas rallied in a major way to help in the face of unspeakable horror to show why this is such a special place.”

On Feb. 10, more than $1,100 was collected during a Benefit Concert for Haiti held at T-Bock’s restaurant in Decorah. For the first part of the evening, members of the Luther football team cleared tables, helped in the kitchen and socialized with the patrons, while an open mic entertainment event took place later on in the evening.

“For both the telethon with KVIK radio and the benefit at T-Bock’s, more people volunteered to help that I could find jobs to do,” said Boyd. “All efforts to this point have been very successful, but for a nation that was the poorest in this hemisphere before the earthquake, more needs to be done.” 

Phase one Haiti Relief Fund donations were also collected on the Luther campus at the Jan. 23 Brandt Open Mic Night in Marty’s CyberCafé and a Haiti Relief Bake Sale in the Brunsdale study lounge. 

“Our thanks go to all residents of Iowa, Minnesota, Decorah and to our Luther College community,” said Montoya, on behalf of the LCSEC. “We especially thank Amelia Kundel, the performing arts subcommittee coordinator, Adriana Diaz, the student senate fundraising coordinator, and Benny Boyd for their constant support and willingness to tirelessly work for Plan Haiti.”

The second phase of the fundraising project, titled “Plan Haiti,” began Feb. 24 with a Luther College Student Senate presentation titled “Eye Witness Accounts from Haiti.”

Plan Haiti will support the development and implementation of two development projects for Haiti.    

In the first of these projects, titled “Trash for Development-Empowering Women,” the LCSEC will work directly with RARA, a social business developed to create jobs and reduce waste in poor communities in Haiti.    

The name RARA is taken from the traditional Haitian RARA bands that play an eclectic variety of instruments made of recycled objects and metal. The social business makes bags, sandals, wallets, flip-flops, and wide variety of other objects from recycled waste materials collected entirely from local consumption and industry production in Haiti.     

After the Jan. 12 earthquake, RARA’s establishment was left in shambles, burying all the manufacturing equipment and the work in progress.    

“Our objective in this project is to revamp the business and transform it into an effective social and economic tool for low-income mothers in the community,” said Montoya. “The project will provide environmental awareness, help with poverty alleviation, and encourage women’s leadership within the community.”    

Four Luther students will be traveling to Haiti in August to implement the project. During their three-week stay, students will help set up the business, as well as plan and manage the training session for the new RARA members.    

The second project supported by phase two of the a Luther Haiti Relief Fund drive is titled  “Collaboration for Haitian Students,” a request to private high schools in the Midwest to take in at least one Haitian high school student. Students attending these schools would be selected through the United World Colleges Committee in Haiti.    

“After the earthquake, many of the Haitian social institutions collapsed,” said Montoya. “If Haitian students are sent to the United States, these students will get the opportunity not only continue their education, but receive a great experience as well.”     

For more information regarding Plan Haiti, contact Junette Maxis at junettemaxis@yahoo.fr  or Lynne McMullen at mcmuly01@luther.edu.