HSO empowers students to help earthquake victims in Haiti
UWF students release balloons in memory of those who lost their lives to the earthquake in Haiti. Photo by Kaitlin Lott.
The Commons Auditorium was silent Tuesday night as UWF’s Haitian Student Organization hosted its annual Earthquake Memorial Ceremony on Tuesday.
In 2010, a magnitude seven earthquake shook the lives and foundations of those living in Haiti, destroying not only their homes but their hope as well. HSO Event Coordinator Nathalia Jean-Baptiste said, “Many of those affected by the earthquake thought the world was ending.”
Jean-Baptiste began the ceremony by introducing students Melissa King, a psychology major, and Changlena Delpe, a biology major, who filled the room with musical notes of the Haitian National Anthem.
The conclusion of the anthem was followed by a presentation explaining the immense impact of the earthquake. Emotions ran high as graphic images were shown on the screen and realities of the misfortune set in.
“I can’t really put into words how much this event means to me, seeing an event like that on the news and wondering if your family is okay or not,” Jean-Baptiste said .
Soon after the presentation, King took the stage once again, singing “Better” by Jessica Reedy, uplifting those in attendance. But before sharing her talents, King made it clear that this event was not just for entertainment.
“Getting back to what is important and making our country strong is what we are here to do,” King said.
Next, Dominique Irons, a biology major, graced the audience with the lyrical dance to “Are You Listening” by Kirk Franklin, created for Haiti’s earthquake relief. As she danced, photos of the earthquake flashed behind Irons, emphasizing the depth of the disaster.
After the speakers and performances ended, students were asked to follow HSO members to the Cannon Green to end the memorial on a hopeful note.
As students formed a circle on the Greens, with balloons and candles in hand, HSO President Villardia Philistin and Vice President Shannen Predelus began lighting candles to illuminate the night. With the thoughts of those affected by the earthquake in mind, a prayer was spoken, candles lights whispered away and balloons set free to ascend in remembrance of the many lives lost.
Philistin said she finds peace in seeing young adults come together for something that is not necessarily in their control.
“My favorite part was the outside segment, because it showed me that no matter who you are or if you did or did not lose loved ones in such a tragedy, we can all come together and show reverence to the ones who did,” Philistin said.
The memorial encouraged time for peace and reflection. Although students were eager to show support, it was evident they also wanted to show their condolences and respect.
“It is important to me to show my support to HSO and while paying respect to a terrible disaster in Haiti that could have happened here,” Myles Kelley said, a communication major and active member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.
This year, HSO also encouraged students and faculty to donate clothes and shoes for children in Haiti who have been affected by the destruction.
Jean-Baptiste emphasized that donating to Haiti is a small part of a large cause, but overall it makes a big difference.
“This earthquake is a part of our nation,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Just like we are Americans and remember 9/11, we remember the earthquake as if it was our home.”
In 2013, HSO was founded at UWF to share a piece of Haitian culture with the campus. HSO continues to educate students and faculty about Haitian traditions, culture and lifestyle while advocating for their country.
HSO will be holding general body meetings throughout the semester, inspiring students to come and learn about what Haiti has to offer. For information on the earthquake, donations and HSO visit HSO’s Facebook page.