Published: Jan. 15, 2010

MSU student group rallies support for Haitian earthquake victims

Contact(s): Kristen Parker Media Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan State University student group is quickly creating a support network for students of Haitian descent or those who have family and friends in Haiti where a Jan. 12 earthquake left that country in shambles.

The MSU Caribbean Student Association is sponsoring the Help Haiti Initiative. It will provide financial, emotional and academic support to students, providing necessities such as calling cards for students to contact their families, said Nicholas Kerr, president of the association, who is from Jamaica. Within the next two weeks, CSA will host a major fundraising event for victims of the earthquake.

While there may be families of MSU students in Haiti, MSU does not sponsor study abroad programs in that country. In addition, there are no staff, faculty or students registered with MSU for travel to that location, said Julie Friend, international analyst for travel health, safety and security for MSU.

“What we really need right now is a global response,” Kerr said, “and for us to be getting money, funding and resources together, so that we can help the people of Haiti during this crisis.”

Kerr said CSA has partnered with various student groups at MSU to raise awareness of pre- and post-earthquake Haiti. The group is sponsoring an information table at the International Center where students can learn about the country and donate funds to the American Red Cross. The group has already sought the assistance of the MSU Counseling Center, academic departments and ancillary units such as the Center for Service Learning and Engagement, which has offered 100 volunteers to assist with support efforts.

In addition, CSA is asking members of the MSU community with Haitian ties to contact the organization for support. It is also asking students, staff and faculty to consider making a financial donation to the American Red Cross at

“I urge all in our community to show all the support they can for these students and families,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “Although human need beyond measure lies far away in the Caribbean, it could be that our greatest contribution to alleviating suffering at this moment is in comforting those here among us who have been touched by this calamity.”

From recovery efforts to public health concerns to refugee psyche, MSU has faculty and students who can discuss various issues surrounding the earthquake:

  • Soji Adelaja, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor in land policy and director of MSU’s Land Policy Institute. Adelaja is an internationally known expert in sustainability, economic development and water and agricultural preservation. With the Haiti crisis, he can speak to food distribution, the rebuilding of Port-au-Prince, intergovernmental coordination and housing and energy issues. Phone: (517) 432-8800, Ext. 102; e-mail
  • Reza Nassiri, head of the Institute of International Health and an assistant dean in the College of Osteopathic Medicine. Nassiri recently took a group of students to the Dominican Republic and has spent time in Haiti. He can discuss public health concerns and other medical issues the country will face as it rebuilds. Cell: (814) 566-3884.
  • Michael Largey, ethnomusicologist from the College of Music. Largey specializes in Haitian culture. He taught at a Haitian school for 31 years, and now that school and its surrounding buildings are gone. Largey said the United States will experience a surge of Haitian refugees, and as such it needs to help make Haiti habitable again. Phone: (517) 353-9013. E-mail:
  • Jean-Claude Dutes, psychologist with the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the College of Osteopathic Medicine. He was born and raised in Haiti until his teenage years before coming to the United States. Among his specialties is how people psychologically adjust to catastrophes, including the plight of refugees. E-mail:
  • Joan Rose, professor of fisheries and wildlife in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Rose is an internationally known expert on water microbiology, water quality and public health safety. Of the situation in Haiti she says: “(Water) contamination will be a problem and thus various types of waterborne diseases including viruses, bacteria and parasites.” She is currently traveling, but will respond to e-mail at
  • Kazuya Fujita, professor in the Department of Geological Sciences. An expert on earth sciences, Fujita studies earthquake seismology and global tectonics. He can discuss the magnitude of the Haiti earthquake. Phone: (517) 355-0142. E-mail:
  • Kyle Martin, second-year osteopathic medicine student. Martin has been traveling to Haiti since he was 12, having gone eight times last year to work at clinics. Cell: (248) 219-3548.
  • Nicholas Kerr, doctoral student in the Department of the Political Science. Kerr can discuss how the MSU Caribbean Student Association is reaching out to students affected by the earthquake. Cell: (347) 834-5630.


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Members of the Caribbean Students Association meet to discuss their response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Members of the Caribbean Students Association meet to discuss their response to the earthquake in Haiti.

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