Students, faculty, staff combine for ‘UWGB Stands with Haiti’ campaign

“UWGB Stands with Haiti” is the name chosen for a month-long fundraising drive at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Volunteers are soliciting donations for the medical aid organization Partners in Health, which has a 25-year record of success in placing doctors and clinics in Haiti to serve the healthcare needs of that nation’s poorest residents. Additionally, the organization has ongoing connections to UW-Green Bay that pre-date the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed more than 100,000 people in and around Port-au-Prince.

Opportunities to contribute to the campaign will include:

• Volunteers from three UW-Green Bay student organizations — the Pre-Med Club, the Social Work Club and the student chapter of the Wisconsin Education Association — will staff donation tables from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. next Monday through Friday (Feb. 15-19) at two campus locations. The collection sites will be near the UW Credit Union branch on the second floor of the University Union, and on the first floor of the Cofrin Library near the Garden Café. Donors may contribute by cash or check.

• Donors who prefer on-line giving via credit card are directed to the Partners in Health website, where UW-Green Bay has a group page. Donations there throughout the month of February will be credited to the campus drive.

• UW-Green Bay employees also have the option of dropping off their contributions with either of the two faculty and staff members helping students organize the campaign: Angela Bauer-Dantoin, an associate professor of Human Biology and the mother of two adoptive children from Haiti; and Juliet Cole, associate director of the Institute for Learning Partnership.

“We realize that many people have already contributed to the cause, but the need in Haiti is immense and ongoing,” Bauer-Dantoin said.

Organizers have set an ambitious goal of $5,000. Student Sam Matthews of the Pre-Med Club says they can surpass that target if they average just $1 apiece from every enrolled student and $5 apiece from UW-Green Bay employees.

Bauer-Dantoin says the Partners in Health organization is familiar to some members of the UW-Green Bay community from a series of events in 2006 and 2007, and continuing correspondence since that time.

One of the group’s physicians, Dr. David Walton, visited Green Bay to make a public presentation regarding efforts in Haiti and the larger topic of social inequality and world health. A campuswide book-study focused on the then-bestseller Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World, which chronicled the work of Walton’s mentor, Partners in Health founder Dr. Paul Farmer.

Bauer-Dantoin recalls that, during Walton’s address at UW-Green Bay in November 2006, he shared the dramatic story of a seriously ill Haitian girl who needed heart surgery. Walton later wrote to his UW-Green Bay contacts that the little girl, Cherlande, had survived her journey to Boston and the surgery, but he confided fears her recovery might be jeopardized once she returned to unsanitary living conditions with her impoverished family. In short order, the UW-Green Bay supporters raised more than $1,000 for building supplies, and a simple but tidy new house was constructed in time for Cherlande’s return.

Bauer-Dantoin acknowledges that many colleagues and students have made generous donations to a variety of reputable relief organizations providing immediate, emergency assistance in Haiti. She noted, however, that demands for Partners in Health medical services will only continue to grow as refugees flee to rural areas where the organization maintains permanent clinics.

“They (Partners in Health) have partnered with Haitian physicians to establish clinics in Haiti and deliver quality healthcare for two decades now,” she said. “They know Haiti and are trusted by Haitians, speak Haitian Creole, understand the culture, and are in an excellent position to make a significant difference for the people of Haiti.”

The “UWGB Stands with Haiti” drive involves not only campus students; the Professional Program in Nursing joins this campuswide effort through coordinating a fund drive with their on-line students located throughout the United States. Though in the early stages of becoming a student org, Nursing is joining students from other fields in supporting Partners In Health. (Nursing was a co-host in 2006 when PIH leader Walton stirred interest with his campus visit, and contributions at that time were made through the nursing professional organization, Kappa Pi. Ruth Pearson, program associate with Nursing, shares that one of the program’s on-line students, a registered nurse from North Carolina, was in Haiti doing volunteer work when the earthquake hit, experiencing firsthand the devastation and depth of human need. She returned to the United States to take time off from her job and her bachelor’s-completion program through UW-Green Bay, and is now sharing her skills as an RN in Haiti.