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Sunday, September 18, 2011
Haiti support from Sacramento
Sac State student gives funds, aid to Haiti
Courtney Owen | Posted: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 12:00 am
Brandon Marshall’s original stay in Haiti was to be six days. He stayed 32 more.
The Peace and Conflict International Club raised more than $1,000 for Haiti. Marshall, treasurer of Peace and Conflict International, went to Haiti June 21 and came back July 27. Paul Burke, a sociology professor at Sacramento State, also went to Haiti, though his stay was for 10 days.
Sac State students contributed money to the fundraisers for Haiti by purchasing bracelets. The task of fundraising proved to be difficult in the beginning.
“It was really hard at first because people would walk by and be like, ‘Oh, I don’t have any money,’” Marshall said.
Once the club made posters with pictures, the students were no longer donating blindly. The posters made it easier for people once they realized where their money was going, so they started donating more.
The club held different fundraisers. On the Sac State campus, members would set up tables and sell bracelets. Members also printed and passed out fliers to use at Round Table Pizza on campus. When students placed an order using a flier, Round Table donated 20 percent of the cost of the order to the fundraiser. In addition to these fundraisers, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority made a $35 check donation.
In Marshall’s initial trip, he worked with the MABE Orphanage, which houses children ages 2 through 16, and an amputee clinic in the capital Port au Prince.
Marshall said about 30 kids live in the orphanage. With some of the money that was raised, Burke and Marshall purchased 25 mattresses for the orphanage. Neither Burke nor Marshall could be present when the mattresses arrived.
Burke and his fiance, Leisa Faulkner, were busy on the day the mattresses arrived. The couple was taking two of the boys from the orphanage to the ocean for the first time. Brothers Tevez and D’Alessandro Francois, ages 7 and 9, live on the Caribbean island, yet they had never stuck their toes in the ocean. Burke and Faulkner wanted to do something fun with the boys. The couple is in the process of adopting them.
“They got to swim in the Caribbean for the first time in their life,” Burke said.
The couple drove the boys out to the beach for a day. The brothers saw the ocean and swam for the day. On the trip back to the orphanage, Burke received a call telling him of the mattresses’ arrival.
Burke and Marshall also put some of the money raised to a $300 certification that shows the orphanage is legitimate. In Haiti, if an orphanage has this certificate, it can get more food for the children.
“Since then, we have had to give some more money and we still don’t have the certificate,” Burke said.
Obtaining the mattresses was a big deal on many levels. Not only is it good for the orphanage to have mattresses, but in order to be certified, the orphanage needs to have them. Also, in order for Burke and Faulkner to adopt the two boys, the orphanage needs to be certified.
“We can’t get our boys home until the orphanage is certified; the orphanage couldn’t be certified until they had the mattresses,” Burke said. “So getting the mattresses was a really big deal, not just for the kids, but for us personally. And for the orphanage, it will make their lives easier in terms of trying to secure food aid and being able to put kids up for adoption and find permanent homes for them.”
Faulkner founded Children’s Hope, a humanitarian organization. Faulkner and Burke connected with the club a couple years ago. Burke said the club decided to make Haiti the major focus of their work last year, which he is thrilled about.
“We are able to raise money, awareness and send a member of their delegation (to Haiti),” Burke said.
Marshall said he likes Children’s Hope because the people involved build relationships with other clinics.
“They take the time to build relationships. They were very respectful,” Marshall said.
Money went to medical supplies as well. A major project of Children’s Hope is obtaining medical supplies here in the United States to take back to Haiti.
“We have a few sources to get discount pharmaceuticals and we get donated medical supplies from a couple of the local hospitals,” Burke said. “We go to Costco and get cheap over-the-counter meds, too.”
Before he left Port au Prince, Marshall was staying at a boys home called Saint Joseph, which was established 26 years ago for housing street children. Marshall was struck by what he saw in Port au Prince.
“The landscape is really dirty. There aren’t too many services as far as picking up trash and cleaning the streets,” Marshall said. “Every couple blocks there would be a building that was ‘pancaked.’ I would see two or three roofs collapsed on each other and rubble everywhere. Street vendors would move rubble to the side and just set their shops up. They would sell food, veggies and shoes and clothing.”
Marshall immediately noticed the heat, humidity and busyness while he was in Port au Prince. But what tugged at his emotions were the people.
“It was heartwarming to see there are still people out there that are still trying,” Marshall said. “People I talked to that worked there are looking toward the future; they need money to help. I will always try to help with money. Minimum wage there is $6 a day. If you make $20 days, then you are doing really well.”
Marshall saw a lot of foreign aid in Haiti.
“Red Cross has a lot of money, but the distribution of funds is messed up. I don’t understand how that happens - seems to be a lot of cracks in the system,” Marshall said.
Marshall said the United Nations presence was abnormally large.
“I couldn’t go five minutes without seeing a U.N. truck driving by,” Marshall said.
Marshall wanted to find the beauty in Haiti. Half the reason Marshall went to Haiti was to take photos of what he encountered. He met two women where he was staying. One, Sarah Wallace, agreed to let him stay with her in Jacmel, which is three hours south of Port au Prince.
Wallace had one condition for Marshall staying with her: he was to do maintenance with her boyfriend at the maternity clinic she owns called the Olive Tree Project. Wallace created the project in 2008 to help children and to provide a safe environment for women to give labor.
“Jacmel is where I got immersed,” Marshall said. “My thoughts on Haiti, it is beautiful and I want to go back. It is a place in need, but I think it is misrepresented a lot in the media. It’s a gorgeous place that needs attention.”
Marshall said he has mixed emotions from his experience.
“Yes it was difficult, but it was also nice to see that these children had a place to live,” Marshall said. “It was really hard, because I had heard the stories of child prostitution, but the children ran up to you with the biggest smiles, and pulling (on me), and looking at my tattoos. It wasn’t hard, but it was.”
Marshall said none of the children were really sad, though a couple of the older kids were wary at first. The children and adults he helped were very receptive. He said that while the children were outwardly excited, the adults’ gratitude was more subtle, with a spoken “Thank you.”
“I felt empathy for them; I could never understand what they went through. I only could be happy to hang out with them,” Marshall said.