Rowan Community Helping Haiti
University responds with “Rowan Relief,” blood drive, wheelchair campaign and more.
The catastrophic earthquake that destroyed Haiti’s capital, killed and injured countless and left millions homeless has spurred the Rowan community to action with a wide range of initiatives to help ease the suffering.
Immediately following the massive Jan. 12 temblor, Rowan faculty, students and staff began mulling ways to help survivors on the island nation, which was widely considered the poorest in the Western hemisphere before the quake and left devastated in its wake.
Among the many initiatives now under way is “Rowan Relief,” a new model for student-based disaster aid developed by the Student Government Association. The SGA believes Rowan Relief will raise a minimum of $3,000 for Haiti through its first effort, the sale of white rubber bracelets for a minimum donation of $1 each.
In fact, said Jon “J.J.” Vogel, chief financial officer for the SGA, the bracelet sale could raise $10,000 or more.
“There are 11,000 students on this campus and I’m sure there will be some who give $3, $5, even $10 for a bracelet,” said Vogel, 21, a junior entrepreneurship major from Robbinsville.
He said the initial shipment of “Rowan Relief” bracelets is for 3,000 units but more may be ordered quickly. The bracelets, a white version of the popular yellow Lance Armstrong“LiveStrong” wristbands, were chosen for their proven appeal to the student demographic, Vogel said.
All proceeds collected through Rowan Relief – through the wristband sale, at tables in the Student Center and elsewhere – will be deposited into a dedicated account and delivered to the International Red Cross, Vogel said.
“We’re also trying to put on a concert called ‘Jamming for Haiti’ with the Student University Programmers,” Vogel said.
A Rowan Relief calendar is under construction to list upcoming events for the weeks, months, even years of reconstruction ahead, Vogel said.
Other activities currently planned include a blood drive in the Recreation Center from 10 to 4 on February 11 and a dance, “D4H,” or Dance For Haiti, sponsored by the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity February 16th from 8:30 p.m. to midnight in the Student Center pit. The Rowan Television Network is hosting a telethon for Haiti on March 10 from 8 p.m. to midnight to raise money for the Red Cross.
A tragedy hits home
Like many American colleges and universities, Rowan was not spared a direct connection to the Haiti disaster. Among several students with family and friends in Haiti, Barbara Joseph has direct ties – her maternal grandparents.
Her grandparents are safe but lost their home, which was weakened during the earthquake, during a strong aftershock one week later. A cousin of 15 who she didn’t know died in the massive initial quake.
“To watch it on TV I’m just in shock,” said Joseph, 21, a management major from Trenton. “It’s truly horrible.”
She said her grandparents, who hold dual Haiti/American citizenships and spend summers in the U.S., may ultimately resettle here but it’s too soon to tell when. Meanwhile, she hopes U.S. and international aid does enough.
“The U.S. is doing a lot,” said Joseph, who along with her parents were born in the U.S. “They’re really getting in there, dropping off a lot of food, and that’s a plus. I know it’s early but I’d like to see more fundraisers on campus. I’d like to feel people care.”
More Rowan Relief is coming
In addition to traditional fundraisers and the blood drive, some members of the Rowan community are making a special effort to bring aid in unusual ways.
Sociology professor Jay Chaskes has begun a campaign to raise money for special wheelchairs. The chairs, built on rugged frames and fitted with knobby tires, are designed to navigate hilly, rock-strewn terrain.
“As a result of thousands of crush injuries there are thousands of people now who are legless,” Chaskes said. “The problem is, in that environment a standard wheelchair doesn’t work. There are no ramps, no curb cuts. It’s a typical terrain in an undeveloped country.”
Chaskes, who lost most of his own ability to walk from an infection and uses a wheelchair himself, said the California non-profit building the Whirlwind Roughrider chairs is producing them for just $220 a piece, far less than the cost of a mid-range bicycle, and is shipping them for free.
His goal is to raise enough money for 250 Roughrider wheelchairs, enough to fill a standard shipboard cargo container.
“Imagine every student and every employee of this university legless,” Chaskes said. “That’s the kind of tragedy we’re dealing with here.”
Chaskes said donations to the wheelchair fund may be made payable to the Rowan Foundation with the note “Wheelchairs for Haiti” in the memo section of the check.
Outpouring not surprising
Andrew Perrone, assistant director in the office of Service-Learning, Volunteerism & Community Engagement, said the Rowan community has a tradition of helping others but has really stepped it up for Haiti.
Still, he said, students, faculty and staff who want to organize a help drive should plan ahead before they collect the first dollar, pledge, coat or canned good.
“Don’t start collecting blankets, for example, if you don’t know how you will ship them and who you will send them to,” he said.
He added that today’s university students have grown up around tragedy – from 9/11 to the Indonesian tsunami of 2004 to the Virginia Tech shootings, Hurricane Katrina and now the Haiti earthquake – and embody a willingness to help.
“The students want to be part of the solution,” Perrone said. “They’re self-motivated and generating ideas themselves.”
Rowan President Dr. Donald Farish said he’s encouraged and heartened by the outpouring of relief – from the student body and across campus.
“There is no quick fix for Haiti and that’s becoming all the more clear each and every day,” Dr. Farish said. “This will be a long haul but it’s gratifying to see the Rowan community pulling together to help the people of Haiti.”
Since this article was originally posted on Jan. 28, the Rowan community has really responded. According to Vogel from the SGA, at least 15 events have already been coordinated including a wing eating contest, concerts and the collection of donation boxes.
"Another six or seven events such as a 7-on-7 flag football tournament and a Rowan Relief campus-wide bake sale are in the planning stages," Vogel said. "You can find all of these events listed at www.rowan.edu/clubs/rowanrelief/."
In addition, Rowan's chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America is planning a concert for Haiti. The concert, to be held Feb. 23 in the Student Center Pit, will feature performances by Rowan musician Dan Wythoff, Jeff Kummer (The Early November), Algernon Cadwallader, Ace Enders (The Early November/I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business) and Person L.
Rebecca Cicione of PRSSA said concert goers should arrive by 6:30p.m. and that the show will start promptly at 7. Donations will support Doctors Without Borders and their mission in Haiti.