RESPE: Haiti featured for collaboration with Partners in Health

Program News | Posted Jul 13, 2010



Posted on 06/23/10

By Kanupriya Tewari, Partners in Health


Realizing the impact of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, students of Tufts University quickly assembled the Tufts Haiti Relief Coalition to convey their support to the people of Haiti.

The Coalition, a partnership among previously unconnected students groups engaging in relief work for Haiti, aimed to provide a coherent framework for the different fundraising efforts taking place on campus. The goal was to maximize each group’s impact. Representatives included: RESPE: Haiti, the International Relations Honors Society, the Jackson Jills (a female acapella group), the Freshman Class Council, Tufts Senate, Tufts Chabad, One World, and the International Relations Director's Leadership Council, as well as several individual students.

Some successful events organized by the Coalition included programming a donate button onto campus cash registers to allow customers to easily donate while their wallets were already out, and cause dinners at the dining halls, where students could sign-up to donate a portion of their meal payment to Haiti. The Coalition also coordinated with the Tufts Bookstore. A fraction of the store’s profit from certain days was donated to the Haiti fund – the bookstore saw some of its highest sales of the semester on these days as community members came out to make large purchases to support the relief work.

The Tufts Coalition successfully raised $5,700 – which was donated to PIH.

“It means a lot to have this type of strong support from Tufts students,” says Jackson Compere from Partners In Health (PIH). “To donate all of their money to PIH shows the extent of their commitment to helping Haiti as well as maintaining a long-term partnership with PIH.”


RESPE: Haiti during a trip to Balan in 2008.


Tufts and PIH have partnered with each other through the years, specifically through RESPE: Haiti. 

RESPE, which stands for Research and Engagement Supporting Poverty Elimination, and is the Haitian Creole word for respect, played a leading role in the Coalition’s fundraising efforts. The project maintains a mission to raise awareness about issues facing rural Haitians and to collaborate with the rural Haitian community of Balan (located 30 kilometers from the country's capital Port-au-Prince), in support of its development plans.

RESPE is a student initiative of the Institute of Global Leadership (IGL) at Tufts, which aims to prepare new generations of critical thinkers for effective and ethical leadership. RESPE was founded by students with the objective to execute practical applications to the theories they had learnt during their studies. The project started when a team of four Tufts students, accompanied by Professor Alix Cantave of the Urban and Environmental Planning (UEP) program at Tufts, traveled to Haiti with Jackson during in January of 2008 to conduct an initial community needs assessment in Balan.

The results of this assessment proved to be highly positive for the students. They managed to create a close relationship with the community, develop a sister organization (RESPE: Balan) to serve as a local advisor, and were able to better understand the community priorities for self-development.

“We were really using and implementing PIH’s approach, but on a much smaller scale,” says Helaina Stein (Tufts ‘10), a co-founder of RESPE. Like PIH, the project is putting an emphasis on community partnerships, by involving community members at all levels of assessment, and pursuing development according to community needs.

Since then, RESPE continues to bring news of its work and knowledge back to the Tufts community and is looking to further engage Tufts resources to support Haitian community plans. Students plan to travel to Balan later this summer to build a maternal health ward, realizing this to be a pressing community need.

While the Coalition was a short-term measure to ensure an efficient system for fundraising, Tufts students look to projects like RESPE to maintain a long-term relationship with Haiti as well as PIH. “During the time of the Coalition it was amazing to see how people kept on giving for Haiti and how small fundraising events could evolve into a campus-wide campaign,” Helaina recalls. “We’re hoping that this spirit can be sustained into the long-term, and RESPE is in the best position to absorb student initiative to further carry out meaningful work for Haiti.”



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