PORTLAND — As the anniversary of last year’s devastating Haiti earthquake approaches, a group of Waynflete School students have begun reflecting on the things they’ve done to try to help the victims, and how best to keep helping those in need.
“They needed a lot of help before the earthquake. Now it’s even worse,” sixth-grader Matt Higgins said.
“A lot of kids knew this was happening, knew what had happened, but we’re more interested in doing something about it,” eighth-grader Erin Burke said.
After the earthquake, a group of approximately 30 students started raising funds, but rather than just asking for donations, they tried to be creative. They designed and made change purses out of candy wrappers and wallets out of duct tape. They printed and tie-dyed Help Haiti T-shirts. They even started a Facebook page to keep their friends engaged in what they were up to.
For Thanksgiving, the group learned how to make pies and sold them to parents and friends. The students baked all the pies in the school cafeteria and, with the help of donated supplies from a few generous businesses, were able to donate all of the money raised to their Help Haiti fund.
“Both the buyers and sellers, everyone who was there got really involved,” sixth-grader Ella Antolini said. “We had over 64 pie orders. We raised over $700.”
Last school year, Help Haiti raised $2,500, which was split between health care organization Konbit Sante and an orphanage and school called Hope Village. This year, the group has already raised $1,700. They haven’t decided where, exactly, that money will go, but that’s something the advisers say the students will decide at the end of the year.
“Last year it was a very good discussion about where the money should go,” advisor Marion Knox said. “There were some very passionate students on both sides.”
That was why, she said, the group decided to split the donations between two organizations. Then adviser Jim Millard spent eight days volunteering at Hope Village and brought back photos and stories to inspire the students to continue their work.
“It’s been challenging this year for the students. I think we get compassion fatigue and disaster fatigue,” Middle School Director Divya Muralidhara said. “This group has had more of a challenge reminding the community that they’re still here, that there’s still work to do.”
With the approach of the first anniversary of the earthquake, the group is planning a Haitian festival to celebrate the culture of the country, while reminding the community that there are still serious issues.
“Before the earthquake, they had nothing, but the earthquake made people realize how hard it was there,” seventh-grader Esme Benson said.
The students have been learning about Haitian food, music, language and culture in preparation for the festival.
“We learned some songs and some inspirational words in Creole,” said eighth-grader Aidan Olney.
The festival, scheduled for Feb. 17 from 5:30-7:30 p.m., will be open to the public and will feature Haitian music performances and Haitian food, all by the students.
“We have so much more than they do here,” seventh-grader Christopher Bergeron said. “They have to spend every dollar they have just to survive.”
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Waynflete School students Christopher Bergeron, left, Esme Benson, Ella Antolini, Erin Burke, Aidan Olney and Matt Higgins hold samples of the creative ways they’ve raised money to help earthquake victims in Haiti. The students participate in the Help Haiti group at their school, where they hold bi-weekly bake sales, make and sell duct-tape wallets, tie-dyed T-shirts, and homemade greeting cards. The group is planning a Haitian festival to remind the community that Haiti still needs help.