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<p>Haitians Sony Ton-Aime and Florvilson Jumior Marcelin attend Kent State thanks to full scholarships from the university. Photo courtesy of The Burr/Jackie Smith<br />
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Haitians Sony Ton-Aime and Florvilson Jumior Marcelin attend Kent State thanks to full scholarships from the university. Photo: Jackie Smith/The Burr

Sending Hope to Haiti

Kelly Petryszyn, The Burr | 01/05/2011
Chris Rizzo will never forget the images of suffering he saw when he went on a mission trip to Haiti in February, about a month after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince. He saw babies sitting in baskets, muddied and naked. He saw a reddish tinge to their hair, indicating malnourishment. He saw the outline of their ribs jutting through their skin. And when he looked into their eyes, he did not see a sparkle or gleam of energy -- he saw nothing.

"They even feed the children these cookies of mud with a little bit of sugar ... that was very hard to watch," says the director of horticulture facilities for biological sciences.

Rizzo fell in love with the students he worked with at the Institution Univers, a private Christian school in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. While there, he visited the home of a student's family. Upon entering their home, he was moved by how little they possessed. The visit brought a tear to his eyes and a lump in his throat. He knew head to do something to help.

But he also knew he couldn't do it alone. When Rizzo returned to Kent State, he teamed up with George Garrison, Pan-African Studies professor, and Gary Padak, dean of undergraduate studies, who felt compelled to help. Through Kent State United for Disaster Relief, they devised a multi-part initiative, including a Haiti Class, a possible service trip to Haiti and a pen pal program, which involves Kent State students sending letters to Haitian students.

KSUDR's efforts also provided scholarships to two students --  freshman biology major Florvilson Jumior Marcelin and Sony Ton-Aime, a freshman accounting major -- from Institution Univers to study at Kent State. 

Read the rest of the story in the Fall 2010 Burr magazine. Story excerpted with permission.