The devastating earthquake that killed thousands in Haiti last month hit particularly close to home for University of Southern Mississippi student Frantz Solomon.
Solomon, a senior music education major, has several relatives living in Port Au Prince where the 7.0 magnitude earthquake did most of its damage on Jan. 12. As of this writing Solomon learned that his uncle, Eddie Etnettienne, survived the quake, but his aunt, Jinette Etnettienne, remains missing.
“She is a teacher in one of the schools there that was destroyed,” said Solomon, who has visited Haiti only once as a small child. “My uncle has been living in his car because his house is so unstable. It’s just a terrible, terrible tragedy. I can’t imagine what the people there are going through.”
Rather than sit idly by and follow news reports from the ravaged region, Solomon has joined forces with other Southern Miss students in organizing a “Project Haiti” relief campaign. The plan calls for a benefit concert on the Hattiesburg campus Feb. 18, which will include a drop-off area for people who wish to donate money, clothes, non-perishable food items and other essentials.
Reports from Haiti indicate that as many as 150,000 died in the earthquake, while another 200,000 were injured and approximately 1.5 million left homeless.
“I was in the process of donating some clothes to the Red Cross and it just hit me that we needed to do something here at Southern Miss,” said Sarah Ray, a senior paralegal studies major from Columbus, Miss. “I mean, you’ve got all those children there, many without parents who need so much. It breaks my heart every time I think about it.”
Solomon, Ray and senior entertainment industry major Kiet Anh Le are spreading the word throughout residence halls, Greek Life organizations and other student activity groups. The hope is to get faculty and staff actively involved in the campaign as well.
“An effort of this nature just shows the caliber of student leaders we have here at The University of Southern Mississippi,” said Joel Hughes, student activities manager. “Their huge hearts and sincere motivation have sparked interest in others to join in and reach out to the earthquake victims in Haiti.”
Solomon said he also wants to arrange a silent auction before the Feb. 18 concert with items donated by Hattiesburg area merchants.
“Our budget is pretty much non-existent so we really need to rely on the generosity of the Southern Miss campus and community at large,” said Solomon. “I really felt compelled to do something on this end. It’s hard to sit by and see what’s happening over there.”
For more information about the “Project Haiti” campaign, contact Solomon or Ray at 601.266.4404.
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.