College communities come together to share Haiti’s pain

A student forced back tears as she read a poem about Haiti. Her classmate did her best to help her through it.

Linda Etienne and Micheline Beauvais,  both originally from Haiti, feared for the fate of their relatives living there.

“Just imagine,” Beauvais said, “you’re watching TV just to see if you see your family. You see the body on the floor… You look. Is that your family?… You (want to) see if they’re alive or dead.”

More than 150 people gathered in the main foyer at The Centre for Creative Communications at Centennial College to take part in a Hope for Haiti event on Wednesday. Centennial College and Collège Boréal share the campus on Carlaw Avenue.

They joined forces to raise awareness and donations for people affected by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12. Officials have estimated that the quake killed 200,000 people.

The disaster has affected four faculty members and 15 students who attend the small Collège Boréal campus, including Etienne, 22, and Beauvais, 31. They expressed their gratitude for the support from the schools.

“It’s a way to open peoples eyes to what’s happening in Haiti and it’s a way to collect some money to help them,” Etienne said. “Obviously they need help so it was a really good idea.”

As part of the event, Etienne read a poem in French, written by another Haitian student who was too nervous to read it himself. The poem described the tragedy that has affected the Haitian people over the past 200 years, including the fight for sovereignty and overcoming extreme poverty.

“What he was saying is, ‘when is that going to stop? Is there ever going to be a time when we aren’t going to be attacked by something after another?'” Etienne said.

The words of the poem resonated with Etienne as she cannot contact her brother, sister or aunt in Haiti.

“I don’t know yes or no. But I hope every time (I call),” Etienne said.

Beauvais is also waiting to hear from some of her family members. She has already learned that her brother’s pregnant wife died in the earthquake. She has not heard from her godmother yet.

She said the support that faculty and fellow students have offered, both in private and during Hope for Haiti, has helped.

“If someone can put a smile on your face for just two seconds, then for two seconds you’ve forgot. That’s good. Today I feel like a family,” Beauvais said.

Paul Koidis and Barry Waite, of the corporate communications and public relations faculty, collaborated with faculty and students from Collège Boréal to organize the event in less than a week. The event raised money in a variety of ways.

People bid in a silent auction, bought raffle tickets, purchased Collège Boréal buttons and sweaters as well as offered donations.

“Our grand total is $3,022.61… We also received some food and clothing from students,” Waite said in an email. “Thanks to everyone for making this extraordinary event happen!”

All money raised will go towards the global relief efforts of the Canadian Red Cross.

Etienne and Beauvais greatly appreciated the money raised. Etienne, however, appreciated the sense of community that came out of it even more.

“That’s how we are in Haiti. Together,” she said. “Even if we are poor as hell, we are still very together. That’s one thing that I liked about today and reminds me so much about Haiti.”

For Etienne and Beauvais it is important to remember that tragedy can strike anyone, anytime and that’s why compassion for others and a willingness to help those in need is so important.

“That’s what people really have to know. (This crisis) is not Haitian only.  It’s human. Next time it will be somewhere else,” Etienne said.