Be the Change: Students Help Haiti Rebuild

One year after the earthquake in Haiti the need for help remains.

January 31, 2011, 5:11 PM

Jan. 10, 2010— -- One year after a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, college students around the world are still raising funds for relief efforts to help the estimated one million people displaced in the earthquake's aftermath.

Even in the best-case scenario, rebuilding will take years. But Haiti is not the best-case scenario -- violence, political uncertainty, and the recent cholera outbreak have slowed relief efforts -- and a helping hand is needed now as much as ever.

In 2010, following the earthquake, students at Dartmouth College volunteered to help in the crisis, leading school fundraising efforts in the United States for Haiti, collecting over $1.5 million in money and donations of medical supplies.

The relief group Partners in Health is helping distribute supplies on the ground by working with the Haitian government to build clinics, as well as supporting and training medical teams to provide care for more than 100,000 Haitians.

"The first $200,000 went solely to Partners in Health already on the ground. In addition, the funds since have been used by Dartmouth to send their own medical teams and supplies, and for educational initiatives to bring Haitian students to Dartmouth," said Molly Bode, a 2009 Dartmouth graduate who spearheaded the Dartmouth Haiti Response last year.

Because of Bode and the Dartmouth efforts, over 51 medical professionals and 40 tons of medical supplies have been sent to Haiti. Seven water purification systems were also sent to help with the cholera outbreak that has infected 171,304 and left 3,650 people dead since October. Each purification system can provide enough clean water for 750 families.

This week Partners in Health said more supplies are needed to prevent further death and illness. Most urgent are cholera vaccinations and large-scale municipal water and sewage treatment facilities.

Students have organized in eight countries around the world to provide assistance through Students Rebuild, an organization raising funds to rebuild 10 schools in Haiti demolished by the earthquake.

Students Rebuild is a partnership between Architecture for Humanity, the Bezos Family Foundation and Global Nomads Group to mobilize middle and high school students around the world.

"Our plan is to rebuild better, and to provide a place with running water where kids can go and have access to clean water, and sustainable education," Welling Savo Justin of the Bezos Family Foundation told ABC News.

More than 100 student teams across 21 states and eight countries have raised $120,881, which will be matched by the Bezos foundation. Schools from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Nigeria, Romania, South Africa, Pakistan, and the U.S. are all participating in fundraising.

From rural Kansas to Los Angeles, Students Rebuild is holding fundraising events -- everything from rock concerts to walk-a-thons.

This month, Architecture for Humanity plans to break ground on the first four schools slated for reconstruction.

Ecole Baptiste Bon Berger is located in Pele, on the outskirts of Cite Soleil. Cite Soleil, Haiti's largest slum in the capital of Port-au-Prince, has been called "the most dangerous place on Earth" by the United Nations. The school serves 1,100 students and is an important place for the surrounding community where kids feel safe and receive meals.

The original school structure will need to be demolished so a new one can be built. Students currently attend school in makeshift classrooms of wooden frames covered with plywood and tarps, spaces that get very hot during the day.

For lack of room, classes meant for no more than 35 students hold up to 60. Architecture for Humanity has begun to clear away the rubble and hopes to break ground within the next month.

Stay tuned throughout the year to for more ways to get involved with global health initiatives around the world.

The "Be the Change: Save a Life" initiative is supported in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.