Walk Raises $40K For Housing in Haiti

Over five hundred walkers came together on Saturday for the Sixth Annual Walk for Haiti, successfully raising over $40,000 dollars for Harvard-affiliated international healthcare organization Partners in Health (PIH), according to Karen Fritsche, the walk’s co-founder.

This year’s theme was “Housing for Haiti,” as 100 percent of the funds will be used to rebuild homes in Haiti, where land and infrastructure were devastated by two hurricanes last summer, Fritsche said. She estimated the three-mile walk along the Charles River raised enough money to build at least eight houses.

In previous years, money raised has been used to purchase operating room lights, construct housing, and fund scholarships to support 1,200 Haitian students.

“Every year we ask the PIH what they need most,” said Fritsche. “Whatever we can do, we do.”

PIH was founded in 1987 by Harvard Medical School Professors Paul Farmer and Jim Y. Kim, who was recently selected as president of Dartmouth, and three other individuals.

The event began at noon at St. Paul Church on Mt. Auburn Street with a speech from HMS assistant professor Joia Mukherjee, medical director of PIH. The talk detailed Haiti’s historical struggles for freedom, first from slavery, and now from poverty.

“Haiti still struggles for liberation, and PIH’s insistence on a better model for healthcare is an example of that,” said W. Gerald McElroy, a current Yale senior who co-founded the walk with Fritsche while a sophomore in Fritsche’s French class at Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School in Cambridge.

Those in attendance gathered for a moment of silence before starting the walk to remember all those who have died or are suffering in Haiti.

According to Bob Doolittle, the youth director at St. Paul and one of the event’s coordinators, the walk raised $40,000, significantly more than the goal of $25,000. He said that this year was the second-most successful showing since the walk’s founding in 2003.

“With the economic downturn people were going to hold back, but the reverse happened,” he said.

An anonymous donor from Lincoln Sudbury agreed to match two dollars for each dollar students from the high school raised up to $10,000, a gift organizers called “key” to the walk’s success.

Over twenty churches, Young Haitians United, members of the local community, and more than a dozen schools participated.

“Even if the economy tanks, whatever we contribute, it’s something they didn’t have. And it makes a big different in Haiti,” Fritsche said.

Next year’s walk is scheduled to take place on March 27.

—Staff writer Helen X. Yang can be reached at hxyang@fas.harvard.edu.