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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Voices on Haiti panel addresses issues after earthquake

<n. 12 earthquake in Haiti brought down homes, schools, medical facilities, transport, electricity and the means of restoring normalcy for the millions of Haitians affected. It also prompted individuals at Carleton and in the Northfield community to take action.

On Jan. 27, a panel, Voices on Haiti, was held to discuss the problems facing Haitians after the massive earthquake. The panel members included Dick Bernard, founding member of the Haiti Justice Committee of Minnesota; Ruben Joanem, an advocate for the Refugees Justice Commission Haiti in Minnesota; Daniel Jean Mary, a student from Haiti studying in Inver Hills College; and Paul Miller, founder of the Haiti Justice Alliance of Northfield.

“The earthquake is a natural disaster, but the number of people dying or dead is an unnatural disaster,” said Ruben at the beginning of the panel discussion. He emphasized the significance of historical factors such as colonial repression, economic dependency and lack of international recognition that have caused Haiti to suffer to the extent it did when the earthquake struck.

Mary, a resident of Port-au-Prince, stated that one must first be aware of the situation in Haiti before one can understand what kind of support it needs. He also stressed staying informed. “People should support the organizations in Haiti that are legitimate – who know what needs to be done and how,” Mary said.

Miller, who has been involved with programs in Haiti since 1996, called for a long-term systemic change in relations between Haiti and other countries.

“‘Beyond a mountain, another mountain’ is a phrase that applies aptly to the economically weakened country of Haiti. However, with the onset of an earthquake, Haitians have had a mountain collapsed on them and are now burying themselves out of the rubble,” he said.

Bernard expressed his opinion on the need to change US immigration policy and to respect Haiti’s stand in international agreements. While infrastructure rebuilding might be completed in a couple of years, human or psychological restructuring would take a much longer time, he said. It is imperative, therefore, to keep continuously informed about the disaster and its recuperation and not to forget it as a front-page headline.

Joanem recommended support in the form of construction effort instead of financial support through loans and other schemes.

Many panel members focused on understanding the background and culture of Haiti and taking advantages of opportunities of information present today, to make a difference for Haitians.

The Voices on Haiti panel was organized by members of the Haiti Relief Carleton: Kate Adkins ’11, Hunter Knight ’11 and Rebecca Palmer ’10. As a second step towards getting support from the community within and beyond Carleton, a fund-raising concert has been planned to be held in cities in late February.

“Carleton has been very responsive,” said Palmer reflecting on the student response that the Haiti panel received.

Other organizations at Carleton supporting Haiti include the International Relations Council. The group is encouraging donations to a fund sponsored by Partners in Health, which is currently providing relief health care in disaster-struck areas of Haiti.

“Haiti will not get better by tomorrow, next week or next month. We are hoping to be here much longer than that,” said Knight. Both Adkins and she were amazed by the support and attention that the crisis has received at Carleton and hope that their collective efforts are able to contribute towards constructive solutions to Haiti’s problems.

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