Other schools look to Dartmouth for Haiti charity

By Holly Ramer
Associated Press Writer / January 25, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H.—Pulling an all-nighter just a week into winter term has paid off for three Dartmouth College students, not with good grades but with a massive fundraising campaign that has raised more than $133,000 for Haiti's earthquake victims and become a model for other campuses.

Two days after the Jan. 12 quake, seniors Frances Vernon, Maura Cass and Alexandra Schindler stayed up until 6:30 a.m. developing a campus- and community-wide strategy to raise money for Partners in Health, an organization co-founded by Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim that has operated in Haiti for decades. Given Kim's connections to the group, the trio knew Dartmouth would send a medical team to Haiti and wanted to match that effort with the same intensity.

"We might not be trained medical professionals, we might not have the financial resources to mobilize and be on the ground in Haiti, but we have time and we have brain power," said Vernon.

What emerged from that Thursday night spent making lists and sketching diagrams on huge sheets of paper tacked to the wall was a strategy to bring together students, faculty, staff and community groups. By Jan. 16, they had signed up leaders for eight committees ranging from monetary collection to communications, and by Jan. 17, they were ready to hand out assignments to 300 volunteers who showed up at a kickoff rally.

"It's about finding what you can do and what your place is in this response," she said.

For some, that may mean simply agreeing to e-mail alumni, friends and family seeking donations. For others, "it's become a full-time job in addition to other activities and school work," said sophomore Becky Waite, who is drawing on her local connections as a Hanover resident to co-chair the Upper Valley Outreach Committee.

Her group has been helping area schools organize fundraisers, seeking business sponsors for a benefit concert, coordinating efforts with local churches, and have worked with the owner of a bus company to install signs and donation collection containers on buses.

Mark Arnoldy, a senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said he relied heavily on Dartmouth's model in helping create the fundraising campaign he and other student leaders are about to launch. While Dartmouth has an advantage given Kim's background with Partners in Health and the quickness with which he sought to get students involved in the relief effort, Arnoldy said he is confident his school will reach its $100,000 goal.

"We were inspired by Dartmouth in a big way," he said. "We're hoping this can serve as an impetus for some of the other Big 12 schools in particular to launch a similar campaign."

Seeing how Dartmouth organized its committees was particularly helpful, Arnoldy said. He has studied charts and other information Dartmouth students have posted online and has been in touch with Vernon, who plans to review CU's strategic plan.

At Northwestern University, senior Peter Luckow said he's been impressed that Vernon and other Dartmouth students are looking beyond the immediate disaster and thinking critically about long-term issues in Haiti as well. His school has surpassed its more modest fundraising $8,000 goal and is looking to increase its goal soon.

According to the Partners in Health's Web site tally of personal donations, the $133,000 raised by Dartmouth as of Monday afternoon far exceeded the next highest total -- $51,000 raised by FACE AIDS, a Stanford University group.

"Just by the numbers alone it's clear that students across the country can learn a lot from what (Dartmouth students) have been able to do," he said. "One of things that's impressed me about Frances and her team's approach is that this isn't just about short-term relief it's really about thinking critically about these issues and thinking in a long-term way."

Dartmouth students acknowledge that Kim's leadership and willingness to help them has bolstered their efforts, and they point out that because of their academic calendar, they were back on campus earlier than students at many other colleges. But Vernon and others said they are all part of a generation of students who want to make a difference.

"This isn't about one or two universities. We think it's a reflection of the pulse of this nation's university students right now," Arnoldy said. "I think we're all out to prove together that even a small group of students spread out across the nation can leverage hundreds of thousands of dollars, which become millions when we pool this together."