Holmes' ‘Haiti: A New Beginning’ Highlights Rider’s Relief Efforts

Friday, February 19, 2010

When Danielle Holmes ’07, M.A.’10 heard about last month’s earthquake in Haiti, her first impulse was to immediately fly down there and help those affected by the devastation.

“I realized it wouldn’t be really possible because of classes,” said Holmes, a candidate in the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program and a residence director at Rider’s West Village Residence Halls. She also serves as co-adviser to the Black Student Union (BSU).

Still, Holmes wanted to make a contribution that she felt would have a direct impact on those in need. As part of her capstone assignment for LEAD 598: Project Seminar in Organizational Leadership, Holmes is organizing Haiti: A New Beginning on Wednesday, March 3. The event, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in the BLC Theater, will feature musical and dance performances, poetry readings and a presentation of Haiti’s history, culture and political background. A reception, featuring Haitian cuisine, will follow in BLC Fireside Lounge.

While fundraising is one component of the event, Holmes said the focus will be on providing an outlet for students who have been directly or indirectly affected by the disaster in Haiti.

“We have a Haitian population on campus. I saw how the earthquake affected my friend and her family. It’s devastating,” she said. “Hopefully, they will feel that Rider is there for them, even if they just come out and have that moment where they don’t feel alone.”

As part of the project, Holmes is trying to unite the entire University to participate in the effort. She formed a planning committee composed of herself; Dominique Smith, an M.A. in Organizational Leadership candidate; Alejandra Mondragon, an M.A. in Organizational Leadership candidate; Uchenna Duru, a Master of Business Administration candidate; Rev. Dawn Adamy, the University’s Protestant chaplain; and Donald Brown, director of the Center for Multicultural Affairs.

Holmes is recruiting the support of various University organizations, including BSU, Rider's Organization of Caribbean Affiliated Students (ROCAS), Koltoure, Rider’s cultural dance group, and On Fire!! A Literary Journal of the African Diaspora. She is also inviting members of Shiloh Baptist Church and Lawrence Presbyterian Church, who were in Haiti when the earthquake happened, to share their personal experiences.

Haiti: A New Beginning isn’t the only Haitian relief efforts under way at Rider.  The overwhelming amount of support and ideas that emerged from the University’s Leadership Day in late January prompted Campus Life to collaborate with student leaders to organize fundraising and awareness events for the entire first week of March , explained Mondragon, a graduate assistant for the Educational Opportunity Program. Proposed ideas included clothing, food and toiletries drives, a hunger banquet, a talent show, and a walk/run event.

Aside from the week in March, student groups have already held service activities geared to support Haiti. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., held Words for Hope Night, a night of spoken word for Haiti, on February 9. BSU and ROCAS held a dance competition fundraiser for earthquake relief on February 11. That same evening, Rider’s chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. held a candlelight vigil on the Lawrenceville campus.

One of the members of the Rider Women’s Soccer Team was directly affected by the earthquake. Windmarc “Tigana” Dalce, volunteer assistant coach, is a native of Haiti and still has family living in the Caribbean nation. The team came together to support Dalce by selling Haiti United T-shirts. In fact, $17.99 of the proceeds from each of the $20 shirts will be donated via the Red Cross to Haitian relief efforts. To learn more about Haiti United, please visit www.haitiunited.org.

Holmes said Brown planted a seed in her head for Haiti: A New Beginning by sending her news articles since the earthquake occurred.

“There are so many valuable events being planned by students to raise awareness of the crisis in Haiti,” Brown said. “Since it’s in March, Danielle’s program is a way to bring all the student organizations together and revitalize the University’s efforts and keep the awareness going. The event will also highlight our students of Haitian descent.”

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