Loyola University New Orleans will commemorate last year’s devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti with a prayer service on Wednesday, Jan. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in Bobet Hall’s Ignatius Chapel. A fundraiser will be held during the week of January 10th with proceeds going to Doctors without Borders.
Since the earthquake, Loyola has led several efforts to assist its own Haitian community as well as people on the island nation. A Hope for Haiti task force was formed in January 2010 by the university and was charged with uniting Loyola’s response to the tragedy through events, fundraising and spiritual support. The committee identified relief resources and planned for a sustained aid effort throughout the year.
For eight Haitian students at Loyola who suddenly found themselves financially bound, Loyola committed to provide funding to support them while they remain enrolled full-time. This financial commitment enables these students to continue their studies without worrying about financial shortfalls they or their families may be still experiencing.
Loyola’s Office of Institutional Advancement has raised more than $100,000 to support the students, according to Development Officer Anna Justice. These funds are the result of the generosity of J. Kerry Clayton and Paige Royer through the Clayton-Royer Family Fund, the Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation and the late Moise Steeg Jr.
Haitian émigré Jean Montès, D.M.A., is an associate professor of music at Loyola and the director of orchestras. The music school where he studied in Haiti was leveled, and he was determined to help the school and its students in some way. Montes, along with the support of the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra, organized a massive effort to collect and deliver more than 500 unused or unwanted music instruments to students of the Holy Trinity School of Music in Port-Au-Prince, Ecole Musique Dessaix-Baptiste in Jacmel, and Ambassador’s Music Institute in LaPlaine. He traveled to Haiti twice in 2010 with students and volunteers to deliver the instruments to the earthquake victims. Montès says he has 1,000 more instruments to deliver.
“We gave music students in Haiti something tangible so they can continue to keep music in their lives,” said Montès. “Their new instruments brought them comfort and support in the wake of the earthquake in which most instruments and supplies were lost.”
Assisting Montès in his efforts was Loyola music therapy senior and Haiti native Riva Precil who organized “Ayiti Cheri,” meaning Haiti beloved, a benefit concert and art performance. The event featured Haitian folk songs and dancing performed by students, and food and art sales. The event raised approximately $2,500 to benefit the Holy Trinity School of Music.
The Loyola Ballet and the Komenka Ethnic Dance Ensemble also assisted Montès with his cause by turning their Spring concert into a fundraiser. The performance included traditional Haitian dances choreographed by Haitians Jeoboham “Zo” Pierre and Precil.
Throughout 2010, Loyola students were galvanized to help. Several events were hosted to raise awareness and funds, from t-shirt and bake sales, to concerts, to walking door-to-door with donation cans.
Haitian mass communication sophomore Wadner Pierre and Loyola Law student Rene Merino traveled to Haiti in February 2010 to deliver much needed clothing, shoes, medical supplies and school supplies donated by the Loyola community. Their airfare was funded by donations at Loyola.
“We worked directly with people in the effected community to make sure that the supplies went to immediate use,” said Pierre. “In Haiti, it is very important to work with those in the community so that their needs can be better understood and met.”
In other efforts, Loyola’s Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society and Student Government Association hosted a benefit concert, “Hope for Haiti,” with performances by local bands and Loyola students. Event proceeds were donated to Partners in Health. Loyola’s College Republicans also held a benefit at the Palms Bar and Grill benefitting Partners in Health. Loyola psychology students raised $1,600 through several efforts and donated the funds to the American Red Cross and Catholic Relief Services.
Loyola’s Office of Residential Life held a book drive to donate books to Better World Books and Plan USA, organizations that donate books to needy countries. Last Spring, students were encouraged to donate their used non-resalable textbooks to the cause. Books that were in good condition were sold online by Plan USA and books in non-sellable condition but still usable were sent directly to Haitian schools.
“The efforts made by the Loyola community have been a tremendous help to not only to the mainland, but also in helping Haitian students graduate from Loyola” said Pierre. “However more than one million people are still living in makeshift tents and hundreds are still living with injuries…needless to say that the country has quite a long way to go for recovery.”
For more information or to interview Montès or Haitian students at Loyola, contact Sean Snyder in Loyola’s Office of Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (504) 861-5882.