Pitching tents for Haiti

Out on the Green, near the path to Richter Library, stands a rather large tent.
Scattered a few feet away are some glow sticks, a deck of cards, shoes and stuffed animals. On a cold Miami night, wearing a blue bathrobe over his clothes, recent graduate Kemy Joseph tried selling these items to pay for his meals.
“The hardest thing for me to do is set prices for this stuff,” Joseph said.
Joseph planned to spend a maximum of $10 per day on meals. A percentage of the money he earns from selling personal items will go towards buying flipcams for citizen journalists to record the devastation in Haiti.
Joseph, the founder of UR Awesome Inc., and former president of Random Acts of Kindness (RAK), pitched the tent to bring awareness and insight to the UM community on what is really going on in Haiti. When RAK led the Haiti donation drive, Joseph predicted people would begin forgetting about the tragedy by March.
During spring break, Joseph took the initiative to spend eight days in Port-au-Prince. When he came back he decided to pitch a tent and live like many of the now homeless Haitians.
Gustavo Lang Jr., president of RAK, was inspired by Kemy’s initiative and sense of action.
“If you set your mind to it, you’ll find a way to make it happen,” he said.
Joseph saved up money and went on his own.
“The first two days I went to the provinces and those days affected me the most,” Joseph said.  “It was hard to sleep.”
He witnessed the tent cities, in which mounds of trash surrounded rows and rows of tents.
Though many people think all of Port-au-Prince must have been destroyed, a significant amount of structures still stand. Many homes are still intact with running water and electricity like Joseph’s family home, where he stayed during his trip. Some pharmacies, restaurants, banks and even radio stations are open.
“Port-a-Prince is a very poor Miami,” he said. “It just sucks that the beauty is overlooked and blocked by the amount of sadness.”
He found that the best aid to give the Haitians was not donations, but rather, the chance for work. Ninety percent have no jobs. Many times mobs would form where officials gave job contracts.
Throughout the trip, Joseph filmed his experiences. Tod Landess, a School of Communication staff member who leads a group of student media organizations and volunteers trying to keep the idea of Haiti relief alive, will post the footage on the group’s Web site, kozeayiti.org. Koze means conversation in Creole and Ayiti is the Creole spelling of Haiti.
“It’s so easy when you’re in this environment to forget the innocent living in hell on Earth,” Landess said.

Andrea Concepcion may be contacted at aconcepcion@themiamihurricane.com.