April 19, 2010
East Carolina University's College of Nursing united Thursday to raise funds and awareness about Haiti during its second annual Diversity Day.
The aroma of boulettes, red beans and rice mixed with mango juice, coconut banana confection and rhythmic music as hundreds enjoyed the celebration.
ECU nursing students, faculty, staff and alumni raised $5,690 through bake sales, dinners and other events the past several months to fund seven full scholarships for nursing students in Haiti. The total surpassed the initial goal of $4,000 for five scholarships.
"This project on Haiti has brought us together in so many ways," said Kim Thompson, student services assistant and co-chair of the college's diversity committee. Symbolically, Thompson, faculty member Dr. Elaine Scott and student Jessica Bland kicked off the event by holding hands high above their heads.
"Today, we are learning about what unites nurses around the world,' Scott said. Bland, president of the Multicultural Student Nurse Association, said people underestimate the power of diversity.
"Diversity to me is inclusiveness in a variety of ways," said Dr. Sylvia Brown, dean of nursing. "We're coming together today with students, faculty and staff for a united effort."
ECU nursing has collaborated with the FSIL School of Nursing in Haiti more than a year.
While planning was already underway for this year's Diversity Day when the disaster struck, the organizing committee decided to double efforts to help Haiti. The day, funded by a BB&T Leadership grant, started as a way to encourage nursing faculty, staff and students to explore cultural diversity, especially as it relates to health care.
Keynote speaker Jimmy Hite, a local architect and board member of the Haiti Nursing Foundation, designed the nursing school, which survived the Jan. 12 earthquake. The epicenter was near the city of Leogane, where the nursing school is located.
Hite shared photographs and described the nursing school before and after the earthquake. Completed in 2005, the first 13 baccalaureate students graduated in 2009.
Hite spoke with the nursing school dean, Hilda Alcindor, who was teaching at the time of the earthquake. She felt a shift several feet in one direction, knocking her off her feet, and then back several feet the other way before everyone made their way out safely. The nursing school escaped major damage, and college text books sent from ECU last fall were knocked off the shelf, but have been put back up, Hite said.
Residents seeking help began arriving at the nursing school just 20 minutes after the earthquake struck. Alcindor stood outside and did triage, telling the faculty and students what to do. ?After three days, she told them to go home,? Hite said. The students had no idea if their families were okay since communication had been severed. More than 5,000 people were treated at the nursing school with little medicine available before reinforcements arrived five days later.
"Earthquakes don't kill people. Bad buildings kill people," Hite said. Unfortunately, many buildings in Third World countries lack the physical structure to survive a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 quake.
Hite recalled that when they completed the nursing school in Haiti, there was no faculty or curriculum. "The miracle was really not the building, but to have the people to make the building real," Hite said. "You are the school."
Several ECU faculty members are providing their course materials for nursing students in Haiti.