One week after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that destroyed most of Haiti, exercise science sophomore Taylor Lackey remembers switching on the television to catch a “60 Minutes” report. He saw images of Haiti reduced to a pile of rubble and hundreds of dead bodies on the street. By the end of the special, Lackey said he felt God’s call to help Haiti.
Lackey threw the “Grow Hope in Haiti” benefit concert at Hill Country Bible Church last night to raise money toward their $360,000 goal, which would fund a school for teaching agriculture and trade. The concert was the most recent of the church’s numerous efforts to provide relief in Haiti, which has remained economically and structurally destroyed since the earthquake. About 20 people attended, and the event raised $474. “A lot of charity events go towards intangible things,” Lackey said. “This is a really tangible thing, to build a school.” The concert featured local Austin group Georgette as well as speakers from Lespwa Means Hope, a nationwide youth organization dedicated to improving life in Haiti. The event was part of a larger Lespwa Means Hope campaign to increase awareness and raise funds for Haiti at U.S. college campuses. “In Austin, everyone has a cause and everyone’s doing something,” said Jeremy Schurke, co-founder of Lespwa Means Hope. “The only thing I can offer you is my word that what we’re doing is changing a country — it just depends on who gets involved here in America.” Schurke first spoke about the crisis in Haiti at the church last fall in another program to elicit support. The World Food Program, an organization that provides humanitarian relief, classifies Haiti as a “food deficient country,” meaning the country produces less than half of the food it eats. In Haiti, 60 percent of people are farmers and more than 90 percent of the land is barren because people don’t know how to take care of it, he said. Schurke, who visited Haiti both before and after the earthquake, said Haiti looked the same now as shortly after the earthquake because Haitians have been unable to rebuild. Collin Huber, Hill Country’s Group Life and Missions Director, said the church was so moved by the cause they began a campaign called “10 For Haiti,” where members would solicit donations from 10 of their friends, who in turn would tell more people. In four days, the church had raised more than $18,000 to send to Haiti. Inspired by its success, the church expanded its efforts and raised more than $300,000 in four months to build a hospital to provide prosthetic limbs. “I want to make a difference; I want to see the whole country changed by the power of the gospel,” said Josh Williams, a church member and philosophy senior. “They’re changing people’s lives; they’re raising their children to lead their own country.” In two days, Williams, Lackey and 14 other church members will board a flight to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to help rebuild the still-devastated country.