Following the earthquake that devastated Haiti last week, aid has been flowing into the country from all around the world – and some of it is coming from Oxford.
As life proceeds more or less as usual in Oxford, it is difficult to comprehend the depth and scope of the human tragedy unfolding on the streets of Port-au-Prince, but Oxford residents of all ages are finding ways to respond to the disaster.
Many of Oxford’s churches exhorted residents Sunday to donate money, materials and time to various religious and secular relief and humanitarian organizations.
Father Jeffrey Silver of St. Mary Church said a second collection was taken Sunday for relief efforts in Haiti. The $5,791 collected by St. Mary as of Tuesday will be sent to Catholic Relief Services.
“We try to respond whenever there’s an emergency like this,” Silver said. “People usually respond very generously to these appeals.”
Pastor Jeremy Carr of the Oxford Bible Fellowship (OBF) also encouraged residents to donate money, materials and time to the Haitian relief effort. OBF is currently collecting supplies that will be sent to Matthew 25 Ministries, an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization based in Cincinnati.
Miami Sophomore Greg Hawk, who traveled to Haiti in summer 2008 to install rainwater collection devices, attended services at OBF Sunday. Hawk said he intends to volunteer locally to sort items to be sent to Haiti and otherwise help out in any way possible.
“They already had nothing … I can’t imagine what it is like down there,” Hawk said. “We saw firsthand how bad everything is: people laying in the streets, burning their trash in the streets because they have nowhere else to put it, people living in makeshift shelters instead of houses – and that was before the earthquake.”
Joodi Archer, spokeswoman for Matthew 25, said the organization has been active in Haiti for more than a decade and has established networks of distribution and warehouses in the country
“In 2009, we shipped 54 containers of ongoing humanitarian aid to Haiti,” Archer said. “Five additional containers are currently being airlifted from Florida to Haiti and another 16 to 20 containers are on hold in our Cincinnati warehouse as we wait for word that the ports have reopened.”
According to Archer, more than 2,000 volunteers have helped sort relief materials since the earthquake struck last week.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of the Greater Cincinnati community,” Archer said.
Students and teachers at all three elementary schools in the Talawanda School District and Talawanda High School are also staging relief efforts of some kind.
Students at Kramer and Marshall Elementary Schools are collecting non-perishable food, bottled water, medical supplies and personal care products to be sent to Haiti by way of Matthew 25 Ministries.
Chad Hinton, principal at Marshall, said the materials drive is part of a curricular focus on service to others.
“We’ve had conversations in the classrooms about how we can help others and how these items will be used,” Hinton said.
Jason Merz, Kramer’s principal, said students responded to news of the earthquake with a strong desire to do something.
“One of the fourth grade science classrooms was talking about earthquakes literally the day before the earthquake (in Haiti,)” Merz said. “It really hit home for some of those students, and they decided they needed to do something to help Haiti out.”
Students at Bogan Elementary will be collecting money through a change drive to donate to the American Red Cross’ relief efforts in Haiti.
Jean Eagle, Bogan’s principal, said it is difficult for elementary students to contextualize the disaster unfolding in Haiti.
“We’ve had grade level and age-appropriate conversations about (the earthquake,)” Eagle said. “It is a difficult concept for a young student.”
At Talawanda High School, the French Club is coordinating fundraising efforts for francophone Haiti. Oxford’s businesses are also trying to help out.
Kroger has set up collection boxes at every register for customers to donate to the American Red Cross through Jan. 30.
Josh Timler, co-manager of Oxford’s Kroger, said customers and employees alike have responded to the appeal.
“I think quite a few customers have been doing it and we’ve also had a response from the workers,” Timler said. “I had three customers come in and purchase 50 24-packs of bottled water that they were going to send to Haiti, and we were able to give them a little bit of a price break.”