Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Helping Haiti

Haiti benefit concert finale

In January, within hours of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the Wheaton community began to do one of the things that its members do best—respond to need.

The Student Government Association, under the direction of Gabriel Amo ’10, worked with students to mobilize fundraising efforts that ran the gamut from collecting money in jars at various events to performing a benefit concert that featured a finale that was reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s celebrity-filled “We Are the World” recording.

Along with Amo, Paul Roell ’11, Christopher Romilly ’10 and Laura Peters ’10 were the chief planners. Also, the leaders of eight Wheaton performing groups each played a distinct role in the event, which raised more than $1,000.

Wheaton Dance Troupe at Haiti benefit concert“The evening was special because it reflected all that’s good about the Wheaton community—collaboration, concern for others, connectedness with one another,” said Amo. “As an institution that places service and civic responsibility in our college’s ethos, it was a natural transition to put those sentiments into action.”

Other efforts included: Hearts for Haiti, a sale of Valentine’s Day hearts, sponsored by the Education Club; a Hope for Haiti Silent Art Auction, sponsored by the House of the Living Arts; a third annual iSpeak! showcase in which iSpeak! T-shirts, sweaters and a new performance CD were sold to benefit Haiti; a collection of school supplies, sponsored by the Intercultural Theatre Group; and a thrift shop (the brainchild of Kelsey Dorwart ’11) that was sponsored by the YMCA Hall Staff and the Office of Student Life. The thrift shop proceeds benefited the Haiti Relief Fund and unsold items went to a local charity. Donations also were collected at a women’s basketball game in January.

Anthonina Fenelon ’12, a Renaissance House resident, organized a bake sale for Haiti. “I am Haitian and I have family and friends affected by the earthquake,” she said. “It was important for me to take the initiative in raising money for Haiti because that is my community away from Wheaton College.”

Shania Mason '11 at Haiti benefit concertVarious baked goods were made by her housemates, as well as by faculty, staff and members of clubs and other theme houses on campus. The Office of Service, Spirituality and Social Responsibility (SSSR) and the Intercultural Board sponsored the sale, which raised $1,000 in three days. “This event meant a lot to me, not only because I reached my goal, but also because I am able to help my country in desperate need,” said Fenelon.

The Wheaton chapter of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, a national student think tank with branches at 85 colleges, sponsored an evening of discussion titled “Haiti 101.” Aaron Bos-Lun ’12, co-president of the Wheaton chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, said the three professors who participated— Darlene Boroviak (political science), Gerard Huiskamp (political science) and John Bezis- Selfa (history)—helped provide a deeper understanding of Haiti’s history.

“A big part of our goal in “Haiti 101” was showing that Haiti is much more than a sound bite and more than a series of tragic images on the news,” said Bos-Lun.

A vigil held in Cole Memorial Chapel before any of the events began set the tone for remembering the tens of thousands killed in Haiti and for keeping in mind the survivors.

Vereene Parnell, the associate dean of the Office of SSSR, who worked with students to organize the vigil and other events, noted that the outpouring to help Haiti is classic Wheaton.

“I was very moved when our students reached out to me and to others on campus in the first hours after the earthquake to begin to plan a myriad of fundraisers,” she said. “I expected no less, but I am still inspired by the compassion and creativity evident in their responses.” Q