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Social Work students raise awareness through “A Tribute to Hope” project

Friday, 07 May 2010

Students in a Social Work class at the University of Maine at Presque Isle spent the day on May 3 helping to create awareness for the people affected by the recent earthquake in Haiti during their project "A Tribute to Hope."

Students in Professor Shirley Rush's Social Work 287 course "Human Behavior in the Social Environment II" undertook a campus wide, non-verbal demonstration for the project, which included a multimedia presentation in the Campus Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as the 24-hour installation outside of Folsom Hall of a tent constructed with salvageable materials to symbolize resilience. The tent was similar to the make-shift shelters Haitians have had to make for their families after the earthquake.

"Students have done their research papers on community development, sustainable community and global community with a particular focus on Haiti. Their final class project was to host this educational activity on campus," Rush said.

Earlier in the spring semester, Rush's class watched a documentary on PBS Frontline called "The Quake," about Haiti in the aftermath of an earthquake which struck Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. The current death toll from that quake is at approximately 200,000.

"The video was so moving that, as a class, we decided to do a project which would educate the campus community about Haiti and what the earthquake means to not only Haitians but the world community as a whole," student Keren Dumond said.

As part of the multimedia presentation, students created several table displays and informational booths, providing facts about Haiti's earthquake and a timeline that traced the history of Haiti, its poverty, governmental infrastructure, and natural disasters.

The class also symbolically represented the people who died as a result of the January 2010 earthquake through a display using population graphing and other means - such as timeline depicting the history of Haiti and the events which led up to its dire poverty.

Participants were encouraged to peruse these displays and to view the 30-minute documentary "The Quake," which ran on a continuous loop during the presentation. Participants were given the opportunity to write messages along the timeline in order to express which events affected them the most. They also were encouraged to leave comments about the film and informational booths.

The tent installation was meant to recreate the make-shift homes the people of Haiti had to construct after thousands of people - half of Haiti's population - were left homeless following the earthquake. The tent was constructed from scraps of wood, metal, sheets and tarps and helped to raise awareness of how Haitians are currently living in tent cities.

The goals of the project were three-fold: for participants to learn something they didn't know about the history of Haiti, to learn about the ongoing challenges affecting Haitians in the aftermath of the recent earthquake, and to gain a sense of what it is like to be affected by a natural disaster.