Walk with Wyclef for Haiti
Grammy-award winning-musician Wyclef Jean and Seton Hall students will trek down South Orange Ave to drop off donations to Yele Haiti organization headquarters at noon on Saturday, May 8.
“Hands On For Haiti” will launch with a presentation by Yele Haiti members and Jean in the Main Lounge followed by students gathering with their donated goods on the Green to begin the walk down to the Yele Haiti headquarters at 6 West South Orange Ave. in South Orange.
Once there, students will have the option to help package goods or sign up to volunteer in the summer or fall.
“This program can accomplish two things,” senior Sean Kennedy said in an e-mail interview. “First, raise awareness of the devastation still occurring and second and most importantly, get SHU involved permanently with Yele Haiti. It’s very rare for an opportunity such as this to arise where so many (people) can make such a beneficial human impact and its one that SHU students, faculty and administrators should not pass up or overlook.”
Yele Haiti is one of the top organizations still raising funds and gathering donations to help with relief efforts after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12 devastated the impoverished nation.
Haitian-born and Brooklyn-raised Jean started the grassroots charity organization in 2005.
The donation center in downtown South Orange, managed by Jean and his wife Claudinette, has become one of the primary headquarters for the organization.
“They (Yele Haiti) weren’t set up to deal with something like this….when the earthquake hit, suddenly overnight they became one of the major organizations sending aid and taking donations,” Kyle Warren, assistant dean of Student Activities, said. “It turned their world upside down overnight while they were there being hands on with their support. Wyclef was picking up dead young women and men. And he’s going to be here talking to us. It’s an amazing thing.”
Through Yele Haiti, Wyclef uses “music, sports and the media to reinforce projects that are making a difference in education, health, environment and community development,” according to the organization’s website.
Projects include the creation of scholarships, food distribution and, most notably, emergency relief.
“When students go down there, it’s a light atmosphere for a very serious cause,” Warren said. “When you go there you feel like you’re part of the family, you feel like you’re at home and you really feel like you’re helping someone and its fun at the same time. It’s a great thing that this organization is doing.”
According to the official Yele Haiti Twitter account, the organization has distributed 84,000 hot meals, 700,000 gallons of filtered water and erected 120 tents for shelter in the past two months.
However, the organization is in dire need of volunteers to help send more goods down to the country.
“They literally have three rooms of goods that need to be packaged and shipped away with only 1-3 volunteers a day,” senior and event organizer Jonathan Chowansky said. “Haiti is still in terrible shape. Just because it’s not on CNN doesn’t mean it’s not going on.”
Chowansky said that meeting Wyclef was something that happened by chance.
“We (Chowansky, Kennedy and junior Patricia Bargielski) walked up to him and said ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ and he goes, ‘Hey what’s up guys I’m ‘Clef.’ We explained that we were student leaders on campus and wanted to help them out, if they need anything like donations or volunteers. And he said ‘Oh, we always need volunteers.’ He was very friendly and we talked for a little bit and he introduced us to his wife.”
The three began volunteering and after meeting and soon after began planning for a larger event to include the rest of the Seton Hall community. According to Chowansky, Claudinette actually came up with the idea of the walk and “called him (Wyclef) up right then and there.”
“This is your chance right down the street to load packages and you load these packages and these packages get right into a truck that goes right to the port which ships right to Haiti,” Chowansky said. “The faster you load the trucks, the faster it gets to Haiti.”
Meghan St.John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.