Volunteers donate their time packaging goods for Haiti


Peggy Laguerre a University of Miami Senior in psycology and Esther Mathurin a University of Miami Junior in the nursing program sort donations of food and supplies that will be sent to the survivors of Haiti's earthquake. The United Way partnered with Miami-Dade county to bring in volunteers to help sort through the donations.

Outside of a warehouse in the city of Doral, UM senior, Peggy Laguerre stood in front of a mountain of packages, bags and suitcases filled with donations for Haiti from toiletries to toys to spoons. On Saturday, volunteer supervisors told Laguerre and 43 other students they needed to hurry up before the rain set in. If the rain came the items would be ruined and thrown away.

“I felt intimidated,” she said. “The thought of all that stuff going into the trash was a horrible thought. All that effort to gather [the donations] would be in vain.”

The student volunteers quickly had to sort and package the donations. Laguerre got a box, looked at the massive pile, then up at the sky.

“Okay, let’s get to it,” she thought.

Laguerre and the students worked within only an hour and a half to reduce the pile to nothing.

“At the end of the day, I can’t believe we went through this whole thing,” said Sherlley Sanon, president of the Haitian Student Organization (HSO).

HSO, together with Butler Center for Service and Leadership, has provided volunteer opportunities for students at the United Way warehouse for Haitian relief efforts.

After the earthquake hit, United Way called Keith Fletcher, Director of the Butler Center, asking for volunteers. Claire Heckerman, student volunteer coordinator for Haiti relief said that students could go whenever they want- she would personally provide them with directions and details on what to expect. All students have to do is call the Butler Center.

Peggy Laguerre had taken two hours of her Wednesdays to devote to the warehouse. She was motivated to stop feeling depressed and start taking action.

“I’ll put enough effort I can for the time I’m there,” she said.

Local churches, firehouses, libraries and community centers had donations they sent to the warehouse, which was separated, packaged, boxed, wrapped and put into crates. The crates were hauled off by forklifts into semi-trucks which transported the items to the facility in Homestead where planes flew to Haiti.

When junior HSO member Rosandra Walker went to the warehouse, a lot went through her mind. She saw what her organization was doing as a bittersweet moment.

“Wow, it had come to this for us to finally take notice,” she said. “Though, it really impressed me that people who did not have any connection to Haiti came to volunteer.”

HSO held a meeting last Wednesday with one representative from each student organization to discuss ways to help out with Haiti relief. Student organizations and HSO will be linked by a fundraising campaign and donation drive, coordinated through the Butler Center.

Fundraising will include t-shirts and baked sales. As of Wednesday, t-shirts with various words of encouragement such as “unity”, “solidarity” and “strength” are being sold in the Butler Center, located in UC 240. Organizations can sign up o help sell baked goods in the UC Breezeway for Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Additionally, several Greek organizations have already initiated relief programming for Haiti. This Saturday, the Sigma Chi fraternity will be hosting a shoe drive on the intramural fields, along with a walk in which participants will walk barefoot. The idea, according to brother Nathan Feldhaker, is to “walk in their shoes.”

“We’re asking student organizations to incorporate Haiti relief to their ongoing or future events,” HSO president Sanon said.

For the donation drive, designated donation carts will be around campus. On the weekend, student organizations can separate and wrap donations to be shipped to the United Way warehouse.

The Butler Center will put a list of volunteer opportunities within the community on the Butler Center and Canes Helping Haiti website, which will launch in February.

With students settling into classes, freshmen not having cars and many unaware of volunteer opportunities, the number of students at the warehouse on weekdays may dwindle.

“As time goes on, you never know the level of response to things,” Laguerre said. “I’m not sure what to expect.”