Africa University Supports Haiti Relief
A UMNS Story
By Andra Stevens*
March 24, 2010—In a country where hyperinflation snatches the opportunity for many to go to college, students at United Methodist-related Africa University are reaching out to Haiti, more than 7,500 miles away.
“At Africa University, we are taught to care for one another, and we realize we have so much freely given to us at this institution,” student Angeline Mafemba said.
“It is only natural for us to give to a community that has been devastated and where the need is so great,” Mafemba said. “We felt we must respond.”
Both students and staff participated in fundraising efforts. The students launched their campaign Jan. 22—10 days after the earthquake struck Haiti. Student ambassadors such as David Cletus of Nigeria spoke directly to their classmates. In the Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance, where Cletus is studying, the students and staff contributed more than $100.
Since Zimbabwe was in the grip of a summer heat wave in February, the student ambassadors began selling ice cream to raise money, and the chaplaincy took up a special collection for Haiti in the weekly community worship service. A Student Ambassadors Merit Awards event celebrating the diverse gifts of Africa University students added to the coffers.
The students recently presented a $500 check, given in memory of the Rev. Sam Dixon and the Rev. Clinton Rabb, to the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. Dixon and Rabb, two United Methodist mission leaders, died of injuries received in the earthquake.
“We saw this as a catastrophic situation, and we wanted to show our love,” said Mvumina Muyenge, a graduate student from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
‘All are affected’
Muyenge said her first reaction to the news coverage in the aftermath of the earthquake was a desire to be on the ground in Haiti. Many other students expressed similar sentiments. Muyenge dismissed the suggestion that the Africa University effort was likely to raise very little hard cash and was, therefore, meaningless.
In the longer term, she and her classmates want to offer their energy and skills to the reconstruction effort, and they hope that through the United Methodist connection, there will be opportunities to do so.
“When you look at it materially, what we have done may not seem like much, but we also assisted through prayer,” Muyenge said. “We called on God for help for those who were trapped and for comfort for those who had suffered devastating losses. . . . We have other tools that can help the situation.”
Cletus said Haitians are brothers and sisters in Christ.
“They are our beloved ones,” Cletus said. “They did not do anything to deserve this disaster. We want to reach out with the little we have and share because in Africa we believe in 'ubuntu'—that if one person is affected, we are all affected.”
*Stevens is director of information and public affairs at Africa University.