Vigil memorializes Haiti earthquake victims, raises awareness

Rosaline Polycarpe, a junior studying psychology and chemistry, drops off donation items at the "Moment of Silence Vigil Event" Thursday evening. Photos: Jenny Hudak/University of Miami
By Ashley A. Williams

Rosaline Polycarpe, a junior studying psychology and chemistry, drops off donation items at the "Moment of Silence Vigil Event" Thursday evening. Photos: Jenny Hudak/University of Miami

Vigil memorializes Haiti earthquake victims, raises awareness

By Ashley A. Williams
Planet Kreyol, the Haitian student organization, and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs hosted a “Moment of Silence Vigil Event” on Thursday in honor of the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

The sound of Haiti’s national anthem could be heard echoing throughout the University of Miami’s Coral Gables Campus on Thursday evening as students and faculty and staff members gathered at the Rock Plaza, located next to the Whitten University Center, to pay tribute to the victims of the island’s recent 7.2 magnitude earthquake.

Emotions ran high at the “Moment of Silence Vigil Event” organized by Planet Kreyol, the Haitian student organization, and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. 

The ceremony included solemn reflections—a poem recited by Cae Joseph-Massena, assistant professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, and performances by students Sasha Menard, Brandon Myrvil, and Maydeleen Guiteau Pierre-Noel. Donation boxes were set up at the event to collect essential items like medical supplies, personal hygiene items, nonperishable food, and other necessities.

Also among the guests were Patricia A. Whitely, senior vice president for student affairs; Ryan Holmes, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students; and Renee Dickens Callan, assistant vice president of student life.

“All of us here at the University of Miami are here for you—we are a community, and we support you,” said Whitely. “In the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, we will be there for you.”

The student organization’s leaders, Laura Francois and Veroneeka Dorval, thanked everyone for their efforts to help the island. They also stated that Haiti will remain resilient and overcome this tragedy.

“We are always so thankful for everyone’s support,” said Francois, a senior studying public health and French. “Your donations mean so much and will go a long way to those in need.”

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the island the morning of Aug. 14 damaged thousands of homes and left more than 30,000 families homeless. Official estimates have reported that more than 2,000 people died, and more than 12,000 were injured. During the vigil, Dorval and Francois held a 29-second moment of silence for those who lost their lives.

One student spoke about how the earthquake has affected his family and how it motivated his peers to volunteer to help those in need.

“The feelings and emotions going through my mind and my heart are a little bit overwhelming,” said Paul Douillon, the son of Haitian immigrants and a senior at the University. “My father lost a cousin, and another was injured. Honestly, it’s heartbreaking.”

“This event means a lot to me, because it lets me know that I'm not invisible on this campus and I have support in this tragedy,” said Guiteau Pierre-Noel. She is Miss Planet Kreyol, a role in the organization that oversees Haitian Culture Week and the group’s annual pageant. “Even though we have a lot of adversity, we are still a strong country. With the love of our people, we can overcome anything. Seeing an event like this just proves that,” she added.

Christopher Clarke, director of Multicultural Student Affairs, and Kennedy Robinson, assistant director, closed the event with uplifting remarks.

“Our student leaders are in good spirits and eager to use this moment as an opportunity to create awareness and provide resources for those impacted by the earthquake,” said Clarke. “As advisers, we will honor their requests to center their voices and partner with them to create ‘Brave Spaces’ on campus this fall.”

For more information about Planet Kreyol and how you can assist those affected by the earthquake, follow the group on Instagram @umiamiplanetkreyol or email umiamiplanetkreyol@gmail.com.

—Emmalyse Brownstein contributed to this report.