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Summer 2010

Help for Haiti

victims of the haiti earthquakeVictims of the Haitian earthquake recovering at a church in Cange, Haiti, under the care of Partners In Health.

Marvin Figueroa, Ed.M.'10, had seen it — and experienced it — before. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch struck part of the Caribbean, including Honduras, his native country, leaving more than 20,000 dead or missing. Millions more were left homeless. The experience made him want to do his part when an earthquake devastated Haiti this past January.

"My village was wiped out and I lost friends and family," Figueroa says of his experience in 1998. "Those who lived were able to survive thanks to the generosity of the international community. The experience taught me that caring individuals, regardless of their location, could provide hope even in situations that are filled with despair. It's a lesson I carry with me."

So despite the fact that a new, busy semester was just starting, Figueroa and a group of Ed School students decided to start a fundraising campaign with proceeds going to Partners In Health, a Boston-based nonprofit that provides medical care around the world. With a collection table set up in the lobby of Gutman and a special donation page created online, the students set an ambitious goal for the Ed School community: $5,000 in one week.

Asked if she thought the amount was too ambitious, Rhonda Baylor, Ed.M.'10, co-chair of the campaign along with Figueroa, says, "With collective economics, I thought that the goal was easily attainable."

Figueroa says that individuals, if properly motivated, are extremely compassionate and generous.

"We knew this going into the campaign," he says. "The group understood the challenges — many of our colleagues had already donated to other organizations and others had limited student budgets. However, we knew there wasn't a limit to what a community can achieve together."

And the community did achieve — more than expected. Three days before the fundraiser even officially started, the group raised nearly $2,000. By the end of the week, they had surpassed the goal, raising $6,665. Motivated to do more, the students decided to keep the donation page posted online and to collaborate with the school's Alumni of Color Conference, held at the end of February. At the time the magazine went to press, the group had collected a few hundred dollars more.

Baylor admits that despite the hard work that went into the campaign, it was something she, and other students, had to do.

"Seeing the images on television reminding me of what happened, or did not happen, after Hurricane Katrina — there was never an option for me not to do anything," she says. "I believe that we all get opportunities to do something that matters to others; something beyond our own self-gratification. It would have been less time-consuming for me to write a check, but I thought that I should instead live up to my highest good. The easy road is well traveled."

To make a donation, go to http://act.pih.org and type "education" in keyword.

Also, to watch a video about a student fundraiser for Chile, go to the Ed School's YouTube page at www.youtube.com/HarvardEducation.

Photo: Andrew Marx, courtesy of Partners in Health