January 12, 2011

Fundraising effort will benefit Haitian students

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Three journalists from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting will share their insights into the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake that decimated Haiti later this month at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The Jan. 27 symposium, “Haiti: After the Quake,” is part of a weeklong fundraising effort designed to equip a resource center for students in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. The symposium will look at how international media is reporting on the tragedy, which killed an estimated 230,000 people, left 300,000 injured and more than 1.5 million displaced.

The discussion begins at 7 p.m. in Student Center Ballroom D. Admission is free and the public is welcome. The School of Journalism, Global Media Research Center, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting are symposium sponsors.

Panelists are Jon Sawyer, founding director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting; Steve Sapienza, Pulitzer Center journalist; Kwame Dawes, award-winning poet and journalist; and Kyn Tolson, development director for non-profit Haitian Ministries.

The focus during the Jan. 24-29 fundraising effort is securing funds to help buy tables, chairs, books, computers and school supplies for primary and high school students. The target is $40,000, said Uche Onyebadi, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism, who came up with the proposal in the quake’s aftermath.

The earthquake, which struck a year ago today and registered a magnitude 7.0, destroyed most schools, said Onyebadi, who is from Nigeria. While donations are going to help feed and shelter victims, Onyebadi said a key is rebuilding the nation’s educational system. The local fundraising effort is through Haitian Ministries, a humanitarian organization that has worked in Haiti on a variety of projects for more than 25 years.

“We're very proud of Dr. Onyebadi for pursuing this fundraising project to equip a learning center in Haiti,” said Gary P. Kolb, dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts. “Their need is great and this is one way to help both now and for future generations of students who will use the center. This will be an ongoing effort, kicking off with the fundraising events in the last week of January and not ending until we reach our goal. We hope to get enthusiastic support from both the University and local communities.”

While the initial idea of building a school is a bit pricey, Onyebadi sees importance behind the student resource centers. Students will be able to go to the resource centers after school to receive added help for homework, in addition to accessing more reading materials.

“It’s a unique place for students where they can go to more meaningfully manage their time,” he said.

Onyebadi refers to the weeklong activities as “Reconnection through Reconstruction.” The late Davis Pratt, a retired professor in the University’s then School of Art, was actively involved in Haiti in the 1980s, and took students there to show how to use local resources in designs, Onyebadi said.

Education is another way to help provide a way for Haiti to recover, and offer a “more tangible result” in the future, Onyebadi said.

“Those of us who come from outside the United States know what our parents went through to put us through school, and what we personally went through to receive an education,” Onyebadi said. “Although I don’t come from that part of the world there is an affinity … I understand what they are going through.”

The fundraising idea is receiving support from faculty and student organizations on campus, and is something Onyebadi believes the region can also support. In addition to student involvement, the collaboration could have the potential of Haitian students enrolling at SIUC, he said.

Committee members on the project are Onyebadi; Lisa B. Brooten, associate professor, radio-television; Jyotsna Kapur, associate professor, cinema and photography; Paul Asunda, assistant professor, Workforce Education and Development; Christina McIntyre, assistant professor, curriculum and instruction; Peter Lemish, SIUC’s Global Media Research Center; JP Dunn, Library Affairs; Thomas Cheng, SIU University-wide Services; and Marcus King, president, SIUC Undergraduate Student Government.

The project has a website at www.haitischoolfund.weebly.com/ and email address haitischoolfund@gmail.com for more information.

All churches and faith-based missions in Carbondale and Murphysboro will receive symposium invitations this week, Onyebadi said.

Tax-deductible donations made out to “Haiti School Fund” can be sent to the SIU Credit Union, 1217 W. Main St., Box 2888, Carbondale, Ill., 62902. SIUC employees can also send checks made out to “Haiti School Fund” to Onyebadi, in the School of Journalism, Mail Code 6601, or Dunn, Morris Library, Mail Code 6632.

For more information, contact Onyebadi at the School of Journalism at 618/536-3361 or by email at onyebadi@siu.edu, or Lemish at the Global Media Research Center at 618/534-3989 or by email at peterlemish@siu.edu.