Pancake Mix for Haiti: Students Find Creative Ways to Help

Colleges continue to rally, reaching out to help the earthquake victims.

Feb. 23, 2010— -- Haiti's heartache has yet to completely heal after the devastating earthquake that struck more than a month ago. As Haitians work to pick up the pieces, the coverage of these events has dwindled, and the big push for donations has quieted.

College students and faculty around the country have not forgotten to help in the relief efforts, and they continue their missions of hope and goodwill.

When Jessica Turner made the decision to help earthquake victims in Haiti, she began to keep boxes of pancake mix and jugs of water stacked in her hallway at home.

The 17-year-old Florida native, who is taking courses at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Fla., while attending Gainesville High School, is collecting pancake mix and water to send to victims. She learned from a PBS documentary that some people eat mud cakes out of dirt and oil for nutrients in impoverished Haiti, and that's when she decided to collect pancake mix -- she says she has currently gathered enough mix to provide food to more than 20,000 people thanks to a large anonymous donation.

"It means that everyone can make a change, a positive change in the world, and I think I can encourage my group of peers to step up and do something extraordinary," Turner said.

Her first shipment of pancake mix, water and other food items were sent to Haiti via two local churches at the beginning of February after the earthquake devastated the country Jan. 12. She said the success of the project makes her feel "wonderful," and she is applying to the VH1 Do Something Awards in hopes of winning the $100,000 prize to establish her own charity.

"I didn't even know that I was going to start the project for Haiti," she said. "It just kind of happened. As far as the Lord will take me, I will go."

Students Continue to Rally for Haiti Victims

Turner is only one example of the outpouring of support from students across the nation. Whether it takes the shape of medical help, clothing, supplies, money or food, students and faculty have rallied together to support the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

At Indiana University, students and faculty in Bloomington are working hard to fill a 1,280-cubic-foot cargo container with items ranging from tarps to hand saws. They are now using the monetary donations they received to buy items for the container, said Emily Miller, a graduate assistant with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

The container will be taken on a flatbed to Miami, where it will be shipped off by boat to the Dominican Republic, she said.

Different groups on campus and from around the community have donated, including an agricultural group that donated a box of ropes, a woman who donated pots and pans, and a local community college that donated hundreds of T-shirts.

Miller said the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, which is organizing the container program, has put "Cram the Container!" on the top of its priority list.

"That's what's also kind of neat, to see how committed the center is, that this has overcome some of the administrative things that we normally have to do," she said.

Championship T-Shirts Shipped to Haiti

Prominent college businesses are also placing Haiti donations on their to-do lists. The University Co-op independent bookstores have paired with the University of Texas to donate thousands of football BCS Bowl Championship shirts and hats to those in need.

After the Texas Longhorns lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide Jan. 7, the Co-op was required to destroy the championship T-shirts and memorabilia it had already made in preparation of a championship victory. However, the Co-op can choose to donate the memorabilia to somewhere outside of the U.S., and the bookstores received permission to send the shirts to Haiti.

"After everything happened, we brainstormed as to what we could do," said Casey Ellis with the Co-op marketing department. "This was just so obvious."

About 13,000 shirts and 1,000 hats were sent to a secure facility run by women in Haiti, where Haitian women can pick out what they need for their families, Ellis said.

While a variety of donations is helping those in Haiti, so is an astounding variety of student organizations. More than 100 student organizations and administrative staff at the University of Florida have banded together to create "Gators United for Haiti."

The group's goal is to raise $50,000, and they are now over the $25,000 mark as of Feb. 22. The University Athletic Association now says it will match up to $50,000, said Sky Georges, student president of Gators United for Haiti.

Georges was born and raised in Haiti, and he has family living in the country. "It's definitely close to my heart," he said.

He said donations will be sent to the organization Yélé Haiti. Gators United for Haiti also continues to collect canned goods and medical supplies on campus and around Gainesville.

"To be honest, it's kind of overwhelming," Georges said. "We're not going to sleep on this issue at all, so we're still working hard."

For Haiti: Hundreds of Shoes

The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa was set on raising more than 700 pairs of shoes to benefit people in Haiti through Soles4Souls, a charity that has distributed shoes to people all over the world since 2005.

Sara Hartley, the assistant director of parent programs, said she wanted to give students another option if they couldn't give monetary donations.

"It's really just a strong thing to see happen on campus, that students will come together for one cause," Hartley said. "To know that we had over 400 pairs of shoes in our first week was just very impressive."

The last day to donate was Feb.12, and Hartley said they are well above their goal of 700.

"I'm just more and more amazed that I walk past the box and it's full again," she said.

Working to Restore Haiti's Educational Efforts

Campus relief efforts continue this month at the University of South Carolina. Students and faculty have held a relief concert to benefit the American Red Cross, designed T-shirts and provided USC students with information on the culture, history and status of Haiti.

"A lot of our students, they were certainly aware of what they were seeing on TV, but they didn't know the condition Haiti was in before the earthquake," said Jerry Brewer, USC associate vice president for student affairs.

The university also has created a proposal to help a student from Haiti with college.

"If we provide somebody with an education, a college education, then they can go back to Haiti and make a long-term investment in their country," Brewer said.

Other universities are working to restore educational opportunities in Haiti. In Wisconsin, Lawrence University professors and students are working to keep the music alive by raising money to benefit the Port-au-Prince Holy Trinity Music School, which collapsed in the earthquake.

Music professor Janet Anthony has been visiting Haiti since 1996 to teach cello and conduct the Holy Trinity Philharmonic Orchestra. Most of her students and colleagues in the music school have survived, but many in the trade school did not, she said.

"There's a mixture of joy and grief," Anthony said.

Carolyn Armstrong, a cello performance senior at Lawrence University, has helped organize concerts that will benefit the Port-au-Prince music school. She has been flying to Haiti since the summer of 2008 to teach music, where she has conducted the younger string orchestra and taught music theory.

"The students work so hard, too," Armstrong said. "They'll ask you for a lesson and two days later, they want another one. Their excitement is kind of infectious."

Lawrence University has raised about $40,000 so far for the American Red Cross and to help rebuild the music school to ensure students will get to play their instruments again.

"Even in the midst of this calamity, life goes on, and life goes on in very positive ways," Anthony said.

Interested in giving back? Here's how anyone can donate:

Customers of participating wireless carriers can text message "HAITI" to 90999 and make a $10 donation to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund.


People can make a donation to CARE's Haiti relief efforts.

One of CARE's main focuses is to provide clean drinking water to those in Haiti. The organization has been distributing water sanitation packets, hygiene kits and safe delivery kits for pregnant women, spokeswoman Alina Labrada said.

Save the Children

The organization is accepting donations through its Web site, click here.

Another option is texting the word SAVE to phone number 20222, and $10 will be charged to the cell phone account. Callers can text up to three times from the same cell phone. Standard text messaging rates apply in the U.S. only.

Even though its Haiti office sustained damage and many of the staff were directly affected, Save the Children is working to set up safe spaces for children so they can find normalcy in Haiti's chaotic conditions, said Elle Russell, manager of community engagement for Save the Children.


Those interested can visit the organization's Web site to make a secure, tax-deductible online donation. Every dollar goes toward UNICEF's work for children in Haiti.

UNICEF is working on finding and protecting children who have been separated from or lost their families.

United Way

People can make a $5 donation to the United Way Worldwide recovery fund by texting "HAITI" to 864833 ("United"). Standard text messaging rates apply.

United Way and their partners in the Caribbean are working to get water and other supplies to people in Haiti. Also, the organization is looking into the possibility of sending students to Haiti through United Way Alternative Spring Break, a volunteer event, said campus engagement manager Mike Brooks. contributor April Dudash is a member of the University of Florida ABC News on Campus bureau.