News | September 15th, 2021

Haiti’s Devastating Earthquake Affected Our FAMUly

By: Vanessa Laurent
Haiti’s Devastating Earthquake Affected Our FAMUly

Haiti has been in a constant battle trying to stabilize itself since its last earthquake in 2010 and has now been hit with yet another highly destructive shock. The 7.2 magnitude earthquake left more than 2,000 people confirmed dead, more than 100 missing and more than 12,000 injured. With a strong Haitian community on campus, many students have witnessed the effects of the earthquake via family back home. 

Christelle Haygood, the 115th Miss Florida A&M University, unfortunately faced the emotional turmoil of having a family member experience the destruction. “My brother was affected by the earthquake,” said Haygood, who is the first Haitian titleholder for her coveted position. “He had to run outside because his house was shaking so badly, he left his own home to stand outside in the middle of the road just to be safe. I’m so affected because they’re my people. I don’t think people realize how much the Haitian community suffers.” 

While Haygood laments the natural disaster’s devastating impact, she also is assured that her country’s resiliency will allow them to recover. Most recently, the country has been faced with calamity: the assassination of Haiti’s president Jovenel Moïse, facing kakistocracy, a surge in unsafe protests, the loss of businesses and a soaring number of kidnappings. 

“I feel like I can’t do or help as much as I want sometimes”

Sherlonda Telusmond, a Florida A&M University student, explains how the shock has affected her and her loved ones. While her parents are also grappling with the startling news, Telusmond often also feels overwhelmed by the distance between her and her country. “I know for me personally, it’s extremely hard because of the distance and lack of disconnect. I feel like I can’t do or help as much as I want sometimes,” said Telusmond. “Like the assassination that recently took place, living through a whole pandemic and now a catastrophic hurricane is just overwhelming.”

In regards to relief, Haiti has seen countless amoral aid agencies exploit its natural disasters for charitable fraud. Moreover, after the initial philanthropic wave, only a small number of outside organizations reportedly reached out during the recovery process of the 2010 earthquake. 

In an NBC News reported op-ed in 2013, Traci G. Lee wrote that the overwhelming numbers of organizations created a facade that Haiti was fully recovered. “But money and a large ground presence — there are 560 registered NGOs working within Haiti, and likely many more — does not fix everything and in one important respect, likely made things worse,” Lee wrote. 

The “most impoverished and forgotten people”

George Avant, a board member of the non-profit organization Hope To Haiti headquartered in Tallahassee, Fla., has invested his efforts in giving back to what he says the “most impoverished and forgotten people.” He believes that non-profit organizations play an indispensable role in the economic stability of our state and nation. 

“The people of Haiti have absolutely nothing,” Avant said. “Our partner has about 4 orphanages, with about 150 children. We provide all support for those children and we feed about 1,500 children each day. The people are just so appreciative and unbelievably happy, it’s a great benefit for me emotionally and spiritually. We are doing all that we can.”

Florida A&M University has issued a statement to reassure students whose families have been affected by the earthquake devastation in Haiti. In tandem with the Office of the Vice President for Finance and Administration, the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs asks those who would like to help to donate to FAMUCARES which will collect donations for approved organizations.

President Larry Robinson and senior administrators previously held a virtual town hall meeting to emphasize the university’s plans to assist the nation. “Our thoughts are with the people of Haiti ravaged by the earthquake,” said Robinson. “I want all FAMU students whose families and communities are affected by nature’s wrath to know that we stand ready to assist them with any on-campus challenges.”