As the national media's coverage of the damages wrought by the January 12 earthquake in Haiti begins to wane, Bowdoin students and community members are continuing efforts to streamline campus fundraising operations in addition to spreading awareness of the Caribbean nation's rich culture and complicated history.

On Monday evening, students, faculty, staff and Brunswick community members gathered at "Homage to Haiti," an event coordinated by the Latin American Studies Program to hear testimonials, gain knowledge about the country's history, and learn how they might aid relief efforts. The event painted a vibrant portrait of Haiti, as students, faculty and Dr. Samuel Broaddus '73 addressed the full audience that sat and stood in Room 315 of Searles Science Building.

Director of the Latin American Studies Program Enrique Yepes, introduced the program, calling the College community to "build a community around Haiti...we here, together."

Five students of Haitian descent took turns at the front of the room to share their personal experiences of being Haitian-Americans. The strength of families, the bonds of communities, fostering respect for elders, a strong sense of education, and pride in Haitian culture were values echoed in most of the student's testimonials.

First year Lyne Lucien immigrated to the U.S. when she was 14. Her family's departure from Port-Au-Prince was prompted by the political turmoil surrounding then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's return to power.

Lucien described growing up in Haiti's capital as "beautiful, but painful at the same time...I didn't understand poverty because everyone in Haiti was always so happy."

Broaddus, the 2003 recipient of the Bowdoin College Common Good Award, spoke about the health care conditions in Haiti, before and after the January 12 earthquake. In addition to being the director of the Division of Urology at the Maine Medical Center (MMC) and serving on the Board of Directors of Maine Medical Partners, he has made it a personal mission to improve the health care services in resource-poor countries for nearly 30 years. He volunteers as a surgeon with the Maine-based nonprofit Konbit Sante, for which he also serves on the board of directors. Konbit Sante works in conjunction with the Haitian public health system to improve the quality of medical care available to Haitians.

Broaddus's ties to Haiti formed after his colleague at MMC told him of his time volunteering in the country, and encouraged him to travel there. Since 1994, Broaddus has provided free urological care on regular volunteer trips to Haiti, and from its inception in 2000, has worked with Konbit Sante at Justinian Hospital in Cap-Haitian, a city located on the northern coast.

"Even before the earthquake, the health situation in Haiti was very fragile," Broaddus said Monday night. Health facilities "were already severely stretched to the limitations of staff, supplies, basic infrastructures, including water and electricity, two things that are critical in running an operating room."

Broaddus explained that though the earthquake's geologic impact did not reach Justinian Hospital, many Haitians were transported to the hospital for treatment. He left for Haiti early yesterday morning in order to provide relief aid for 10 days.

Professor of History Allen Wells shed light on Haiti's complicated and rich history, highlighting that though the slave revolution that started in 1791 was successful and culminated in a black republic 13 years after it began, "it was an unthinkable event" given the world's perception of race at that time.

Wells reflected on the similarities between the high death rates Haiti experienced as a slave society and the nation's contemporary struggles with poverty. The brutal conditions during the slave economy translated into high death rates and low birth rates.

"It's interesting that we heard Dr. Broaddus tonight talk about infant mortality rates," Wells said. "Not much has changed over the last 200 years."

Karen Lindo, a visiting assistant professor of French, shared a brief background of Haitian literature, explaining that despite its vibrancy, it is not widely read.

Before reciting the poem "Present Past Future" by Haitian poet Marc Christophe, Lindo said, "It is striking to me that Haiti always recurs in the media when there is devastation...Why is it alright to enjoy pathos and our own interpretation of humanism when there's a disaster for which can prove our humanity, but then we can disregard what has actually been going on for...400 years?"

Alain Mathieu '12 and Kyle Dempsey '11 followed, speaking to the crowd about ways the Bowdoin and Brunswick communities can help Haiti. Along with other campus leaders, they have been organizing Bowdoin for Haiti Action Week, a series of events to take place on campus from February 21-27 that will not only raise awareness about Haiti in general, but celebrate its rich cultural heritage with music, dance and food-related events. All proceeds from campus fundraising efforts will be donated to Partners in Health and Konbit Sante.

A screening of the documentary, "Poto mitan: Haitian women, pillars of the global economy" followed Dempsey and Mathieu's presentation.

Mathieu has organized the Bowdoin Haitian Alliance, a student group that will work to bring focus to Haitian issues and spearhead projects for long-term aid. The alliance successfully secured a club charter on Wednesday.

"Eventually, the news will stop covering" the earthquake's damages in Haiti, Mathieu said, explaining why he feels it especially important that the newly formed alliance continue to bring attention to the country's trials.

Dudney Sylla, assistant director of Residential Life, will serve as the faculty advisor for the Bowdoin Haitian Alliance. Born in Port-Au-Prince, he immigrated to America with his family. He said that his family members that still live in Haiti are safe, though some houses his family owned were destroyed.

Sylla felt that Monday night's event was an appropriate tribute to the devastation in Haiti, and that by giving both historical and cultural context it "really helped people to understand the gravity of what occurred as well as expose people a little bit to the culture."

"Haiti is crying. It is a very strong country, like many of us have pointed out. It is a very resilient people, but it is crying. It is calling out for all of us to help, so let's answer the call," Mathieu said on Wednesday.

Reflecting on how the earthquake has affected the people of Haiti, Lucien said, "I know now that the earthquake hit, the one thing that my mom always tells me is that we have to celebrate the person's life, because in Haiti we always learned to not mourn...instead we celebrate."