IDS Students Keep Up Haiti Support

IDS Students Keep Up Haiti Support

UCLA International Development Studies senior Carlos Lomeli and German exchange student Sandra Schmidt serve food prepared by Lomeli and classmates, in exchange for donations to Haiti disaster relief organizations, in the Broad Art Center courtyard.

Nineteen students in an International Development Studies seminar enlisted UC faculty and staff for a forum and fundraiser on March 5.

The 19 undergraduates in Nandini Gunewardena's winter seminar on gender issues in international development didn't want the UCLA campus to start its process of forgetting, at least not yet. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti almost two months ago killed some 230,000 people and displaced many more, and recovery efforts are in a critical stage. So the students turned to Gunewardena and their International Development Studies academic coordinator, Sandy Valdivieso, for help in organizing a benefit.

"This was not a part of their requirement, but something they decided to do," said Valdivieso. "They were actually able to put into practice what they were learning in the classroom."

The students put together a list of organizations on the ground that are helping vulnerable Haitians and promoting a sustainable recovery after the Jan. 12 disaster. Then, at a combination forum-and-fundraiser at Broad Art Center last Friday afternoon, they sold plates of Haitian food that they'd prepared, and they auctioned works of art donated by fellow students, raising more than $500 for relief efforts. Inside an auditorium at the art center, two panels of faculty members from UCLA, UCSB and Cal Lutheran University discussed the scope of the tragedy, its representation in the news media and the fresh perils that have accompanied its aftermath.

World Arts & Cultures Professor Don Cosentino described the impact of the quake on various aspects of Haitian culture. Notre Dame Cathedral in Port-au-Prince collapsed with the archbishop inside. When the city's Episcopal Holy Trinity Cathedral crumbled, so did its great Haitian Renaissance murals.

"No one went to that building without a sense of awe at the murals and a sense that they might not always be there. They're gone, vanished, lost," he said.

Panelists expressed their conviction that Haiti would emerge from the disaster proudly. Professor Claudine Michel of the UCSB Department of Black Studies said that Haiti, with its history of struggles for independence, "will certainly rise to this challenge."

Other speakers at the event were UCLA History Professors Robin Derby and Robert Hill, Vice Provost of International Studies Nicholas Entrikin, and Cal Lutheran Professor of Communications Russell Stockard. Derby played video excerpts from interviews she conducted in the border region with the Dominican Republic in January.

The UCLA African Studies Center and the History Department assisted International Development Studies in organizing the event, and the Graduate Division and the International Institute provided additional support.

Published: Tuesday, March 09, 2010