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The curriculum at the Rhode Island School of Design lacks instruction in emergency medicine and search and rescue techniques, but creative RISD students are still finding ways to get involved with disaster relief in Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake. The administration has tried to coordinate these student efforts and has also worked to support a RISD student working in Haiti during the earthquake.

"The way in which people support (fundraising efforts) is from a much more artistic standpoint" than at other schools, RISD freshman Andreas Nicholas said. Instead of conventional charity events, RISD students are planning a 12-hour drawing marathon, a satirical musical and a silent art auction. The proceeds of all of the events will go to organizations already established in Haiti, such as Partners in Health, the American Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.

RISD Dining Services organized a "Cakes for Quakes" drive, selling decorated cupcakes to raise money, and will try to sell its products at some of the student-organized events.

The Residence Life Office held one of the most profitable events at RISD thus far, a Haitian food sale that earned $1,000 in 40 minutes. A Web site set up for the RISD community to send money to Partners in Health has raised $2,970 as of Wednesday afternoon.

Few students have elected to directly assist rescue efforts in Haiti.

"Our skill sets aren't valuable to go down there right yet," said Natalie Hogan, the program director for student life.

Still, some students, like RISD senior Lisa Butler — who studies Haitian Creole at Brown and visited the struggling nation twice prior to the quake through the Haiti Charity Hope Foundation — hope to provide more direct support. Butler said she would like to go back to Haiti as early as this April.

Another student group, Alternative Spring Break, had planned to visit Haiti over spring break, but has had to defer the trip, said Don Morton, the director of student life.

Third-year student Nathalie Jolivert was in Haiti when the earthquake struck. According to Morton, Jolivert is safe and currently in Florida, while her mother is being treated for foot injuries she sustained during the quake. The architecture major's father died during the earthquake, but she hopes to return to College Hill this weekend, said Jolivert's roommate, senior Christina DeOrchis.

During a few panicked days, neither the RISD student body nor administration knew if Jolivert was safe, Morton said. The Office of Multicultural Affairs finally located her through a Facebook post.

"They reacted very well and very fast," said DeOrchis, who only found out that Jolivert was alive two days after the earthquake.

She said a lot of students — not just those friendly with Jolivert — have joined the effort to aid Haiti.

"I know who Nathalie's close friends are, and they're involved, but there are a lot more people who are helping," she said.

Butler, who does not know Jolivert personally, said she did not decide to participate in Haitian relief efforts simply because a RISD student was there. Instead, she thinks that even without a personal connection to Haiti, most students would have helped.

"I've been surprised by how much people want to help," she said. "It's seemed like people really want to be committed for the long haul."

The RISD student body showed a strong interest in working to assist Haiti, Hogan said.

"I've seen a lot of students who I've never seen before come into (the Office of Student Life) to get involved," she said.

While Nicholas appreciates the efforts that both students and administrators have made to help Haiti, he said that more should be done.

"I wish there was more student-to-student, student-to-administration collaboration," he said. "Everything is so scattered."

Nicholas said he has found it difficult to work with other students to organize events, even though the Office of Student Life is trying to coordinate students' efforts.

The office put together a Web site and a blog for students to use to collaborate, and it also provides funding and structure to student initiatives. Right now, administrators are trying to rework existing events to become fundraisers for Haiti. For example, "RISD: The Musical" was already scheduled to run on Feb. 26 and 27. The Office of Student Life decided to give it funding to cover set design and other costs, so that all the proceeds from tickets to the satirical show would go toward Haiti relief efforts.

The Office of Student Life continues to try to bring students, administration and faculty together through the new Web sites it has created, Morton said, preparing for the end of RISD's winter session in mid-February, when the full student body will return to campus.

Both Morton and Hogan said they hope to include Brown students in future fundraising efforts.

While the Office of Student Life is working to control on-campus activities at RISD to support Haiti, several RISD alumni have also started independent fundraising efforts.

Studio Number One, led by creative director Shepard Fairey, a 1992 graduate and graphic artist, is selling T-shirts for $15. According to its Web site, the shirt's full retail cost will go to UNICEF. The studio also donated artwork to a Music For Relief album that will fund Haiti disaster relief.

Aaron Perry-Zucker, who graduated from RISD in 2009, has started an Internet forum to collect graphic designs to raise money for Haiti and promote awareness of the disaster.


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