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January 21, 2010: Our Town – OWU

Students Kyle Herman and Usman Javaid share their thoughts on the Haitian crisis.
Photo by Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan Remembers Haiti
Community gathers to honor victims and survivors

In the wake of the ongoing tragedy in Haiti, the Ohio Wesleyan community came together Friday, January 15, in the Benes Rooms at Hamilton-Williams Campus Center for a vigil “in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who have endured not only this suffering, but for whom suffering is a daily reality,” said University Chaplain Jon Powers.

Students were represented at the vigil by Kyle Herman, WCSA president, and Usman Javaid, immediate past president. “When a tragedy happens far away,” Herman said, “it’s easy to turn the page or navigate to a different Web site.” However, on a campus as diverse as Ohio Wesleyan’s, events that happen far away always affect at least a few of our fellow students and therefore affect us all, he said. “What is easy is not right,” Herman continued. “Thank you for not ignoring the tragedy in Haiti.”

Javaid opened his remarks by remembering the earthquake that struck his native Pakistan five years ago. “I still remember the despair, sorrow, and feelings of helplessness,” he said. “But the international community came together to help. I remember two Ohio Wesleyan students raising more than $2,000 by dormstorming over a couple of evenings. I feel grateful to have lived in a community that showed compassion and helped Pakistan. I know that you will now come together for Haiti as well.”

Faculty member Mary Howard, who has been traveling to Haiti for more than three decades and whose missions there were the genesis of Ohio Wesleyan’s ambitious Spring Break Mission Week, spoke of the resilience of the Haitian people. “The people of Haiti are superhuman,” she said. “It takes that kind of effort to live in such conditions and endure. They will mourn and they will rebuild.” Obviously moved by the destruction of landmarks she knows well, including the National Cathedral, Howard noted that Haiti needs three things: funds, cash, and money. “So, as you obsess about that next thing you ‘need,’” she said, “realize that you don’t really need it. Save a life instead. Give the money you would spend on whatever it is to Haiti.”

Chaplain Powers recognized staff members Robert-Louis Charles and Leslie DeLerme, both of whom have relatives in Haiti. “We thank God for the good news that their families are safe,” he said.

DeLerme then spoke briefly. “I was with a student when I found out about my family. And I was relieved for about an hour or two,” she said. “But there is so much more to be done. Please pray for the people and give what you can. Haiti will rise.”

Rejoice Ngongoni ’11, Christina Yost ’10, and Greylyn Hyndinger ’11 offered Catholic and Protestant prayers. Associate Chaplain for Jewish Life Jodi Kushins and Emily Stein ’12 recited the Kaddish in Aramaic and English. “Because it is Friday, our Islamic brothers and sisters are now in prayer in Peale Chapel,” said Chaplain Powers, “and they are with us in spirit.”

Student Shade Fakunle ’10, president of SUBA, said the organization has generated a number of ideas to provide material assistance as well as funds. She asked for contributions of such supplies as dry baby formula, antibiotic ointment, soap, and peanut butter. Chaplain Powers introduced student Kim Davis ’10, who is working with the Chaplain’s Office to investigate ways students can participate in direct relief efforts as part of Spring Break Mission Week.

Chaplain Powers presented a list of reputable organizations that are accepting funds and with whom Ohio Wesleyan has a history: The United Methodist Committee on Relief; Partners in Health; Catholic Relief Services; American World Jewish Service; and Theo’s Work, Inc., a boy’s orphanage founded by OWU alumnus and trustee, Doug Dittrick ’55. Contributions may be sent to the Chaplain’s Office, and checks will be forwarded immediately to the organizations.

In recognition of the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and of the continuing crisis in Haiti, the vigil ended with all joining hands and singing a verse of We Shall Overcome. Certainly for this occasion, the song was an appropriate and heartfelt choice.

– Gretchen Hirsch