A little more than two years after a devastating earthquake killed hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti—a country already suffering from political upheaval, public health problems and poverty—students at Butler University are working to improve the lives of Haitians.
This week is Help Heal Haiti Week on campus, sponsored by the Butler Chapter of Help Heal Haiti.
Events will be going on throughout the week. There is a panel discussion about the club members’ experiences in Haiti over spring break today from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Ford Salon of Robertson Hall; Thursday is a give-back at Howl at the Moon; and Saturday there will be a free benefit concert in Starbucks from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. featuring musical acts like Freshly Brewed, Out of the Dawg House and a number of soloists and small bands.
Aaron Kelly, a junior recording industry studies major, is part of a band performing this weekend.
“It’s a worthwhile event,” he said, “because it brings light to a good cause. Hopefully it helps as much as it can.”
Aaron Harrison, co-founder of HHH and president of Butler’s chapter, said the goals of the week are fundraising and increasing awareness of the problems that Haitians face everyday.
“[The Butler community] will be able to put a face to a cause, and we really think that is the most important aspect,” he said. “It’s hard to be passionate about something you don’t see.”
Harrison has seen first-hand the poor conditions of the small Carribbean nation. He traveled to Haiti in high school and again over spring break this year, visiting a community in the northwest region called Beau Champ.
Harrison described the daily routine of fetching water, which for a Beau Champ child includes a two-hour walk to the nearest river. Inspired by the situation in Beau Champ, Harrison and a group of like-minded people from southern Indiana formed Help Heal Haiti three years ago.
After being picked up by the national Northwest Haiti Christian Mission, HHH became a national organization, with chapters opening up across the United States.
Help Heal Haiti’s mission is to install solar-powered filtration systems—costing about $35,000 each—on the wells that a partner company is drilling in northwestern Haiti. Harrison said that this is not their only mission, though.
“We are trying not to make (a situation) where we are just doing this, and putting it in there,” he said, “but making it so that they take ownership of it. (The Haitians) have to work with us.”
Harrison said that this approach is a solution to a problem that has plagued Haiti for decades: foreign aid comes when needed but without Haitian involvement. Haitians now rely, Harrison said, on the idea that aid will come to them when needed.
Butler’s HHH chapter has about 50 active members, with a 12-person leadership team. Harrison said that interested students can contact him directly by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find more information about meetings on the chapter’s Facebook (Help Heal Haiti: Butler Chapter) or Twitter (@HHH_Butler).