For the last few days, many people have been glued to their computer screens and television sets, watching the horrific aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and wondering what they can do to help.
At Oregon State University, students, faculty and staff now have an opportunity to make cash donations through the Memorial Union that will go directly to the aid effort in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti. Michael Henthorne, director of the MU, and his staff are using the Memorial Union as a collecting and communication agent for Haitian Quake relief.
“We believe that we are the community center of the University and as such, campus-wide efforts should have visibility and a contribution to the effort from the MU,” Henthorne said. “It is deeply rooted in our past. If you look at the periods of civil rights, the peace movement, support for military during WWII, etc., all of them have a strong connection to the MU.”
Oregon State has a pre-existing partnership with Mercy Corps International, a Portland-based aid group that is sending staff and supplies to Haiti in the wake of the disaster. The student organization ISOSU is acting as the fund dispersing account for cash donations on campus, all of which will go directly to Mercy Corps.
“They have one of the highest gifts-to-aid ratio of any relief agency at 89 percent,” Henthorne said of Mercy Corps. “People on campus are familiar with them and they get frequent media exposure in the state and region because of their out-reach efforts.”
Mercy Corps has also made staff available to travel to campus if needed to provide direction presentations on emergency efforts and answer questions about what they are trying to do.
There is currently a display in the MU concourse that explains Mercy Corps’ mission and has an area to keep track of group, organization and departmental cash contributions. Donations will be collected in the MU Business Office.
The MU has been the focal point of a number of disaster relief efforts, most notably following the tsunamis of 2004.
“We did a similar effort (in 2004),” Henthorne said, “but we were more focused on individual contributions with the Tsunami. This time, we’re also targeting groups, and in particular, encouraging them to conduct activities over the next few months of Winter Term, perhaps even into Spring Term and beyond, given how much of Port-au-Prince is going to need to be rebuilt.”
Henthorne said it makes sense to provide an opportunity for OSU community members to help out those in Haiti in an immediate and tangible way.
“We have plenty of evidence that people at OSU want to make a difference for those who live with far fewer resources than we have enjoyed. When disasters strike, the OSU community generally responds,” he said. “This catastrophic earthquake will be a marker in time, perhaps the single greatest loss of life in an earthquake in modern time. I believe that the campus community will want to look back on it and recall that they did something to help.”
To learn more about Mercy Corps, go to www.mercycorps.org or call (800) 292-3355.
~ Theresa Hogue