UPDATED: SMU Haiti relief project begins; needs dose of realism

By Brooks L. Powell

UPDATE: The Daily Campus has learned that the “SMU’s Heart Beats for Haiti” campaign will last for three weeks, running from Jan. 25-Feb. 15, rather than two weeks as reported Tuesday evening, Jan. 19.

The SMU Student Senate, led by Student Body President Patrick Kobler, hashed out an impressive plan at Tuesday afternoon’s emergency meeting to collect donations to aid relief efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. While some details have yet to be finalized, the initial impressions are good.

Kobler refused to set a financial goal for the initiative, but a source close to the effort told The Daily Campus they hope to raise at least $50,000.

We did some checking this afternoon and found that SMU’s effort is much more ambitious than other schools’ in the area.

UNT and TCU are both doing drives, one for donations for the American Red Cross and the other for hygiene products.

SMU’s planned effort is certainly optimistic, but maybe it’s best to maintain a conservative perspective, especially in a down economy.

Most current SMU students, with the exception of some graduate students who also did their undergrad work on the Hilltop, are too young to remember SMU’s 2005 “Three Weeks for Relief” campaign (see also here) coordinated by then-Student Body President Liz Healy to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina. SMU hosted a number of displaced college students from New Orleans-area schools, including Tulane, following the disaster, as well as raised funds to help with rescue and relief efforts.

After a great deal of coordinated, concerted effort (and sleepless nights) on the part of Student Senators, Greek life members, and the majority of SMU’s student organizations, three weeks of fundraising really paid off.

At half-time during the SMU vs. Tulane football game at Ford Stadium, in true SMU fashion, the hefty sum of $27,000 for the American Red Cross was presented to officials with Conference USA (complete with hokey giant check). Brilliant fodder for a photo-op, which was probably well-deserved.

Following the campaign, Healy received a host of accolades, including numerous national interviews and a feature in Glamour magazine in which she was named, “The Fund Raiser.”

While the SMU Haiti relief effort is well-intentioned, it may be a tough mountain to climb to reach an unofficial goal of $50,000.

The “Three Weeks” campaign had…well, three weeks, while the Haiti campaign is only planned for two. Healy and her minions in ’05 were pumped up and rearing to go on the Katrina relief effort, which was due at least in part to Healy’s organizational and social skills.

At the same time, the Katrina effort seemed to really hit home with SMU students. Many Tulane students were actually living in our residence halls, eating in Umph and going to our classes, so we saw them every day—physical reminders of trouble elsewhere in the world. Also, many SMU students had been to New Orleans, which made the devastating photos even more difficult to see when compared to fond (or not so fond) memories of the Big Easy.

Comparatively speaking, Haiti seems so far removed from the Hilltop. Few people have been there, and there are even fewer physical reminders around us to keep our thoughts on the tragedy unfolding in the region.

The scenes from the ground in Port-au-Prince are unbelievably sad and bound to get worse as the death toll rises. But our cushy “bubble,” as it’s often derisively called, offers an opportunity to slip into blissful ignorance while suffering, hunger and death ravage an entire nation.

For the Haiti project to be successful, Kobler and his team must put reality in people’s faces. Potential donors must bear witness the devastation and be reminded of it often. Only then will they reach into their pocketbooks and give generously enough to make a difference.

Don’t get me wrong. That’s not to say students, faculty, staff, alumni, families, pets and houseplants shouldn’t donate to the Haiti effort.

It’s just probably better to keep a realistic perspective unless organizers are willing to bring this tragedy home to the Hilltop and show people why their help is so desperately needed.

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2 Responses to UPDATED: SMU Haiti relief project begins; needs dose of realism

  1. Hey Everyone,

    I just wanted to clarify that the effort will be three weeks, beginning Monday January 25th and ending February 15th. I know Haiti in location is distant in location to SMU students but I have seen the very best of this community and I know its members will meet the challenge. These are difficult economic times but they pale in comparison to the situation of those affected by this tragedy. I implore all members of the SMU community to give what they can. We have been told to be global citizens throughout our education and now we can actually become them.

  2. Pingback: On blogging: impulse vs. insight « Brooks L. Powell

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