French Club fundraiser for Haiti


Chante Rutherford, Reporter

Having a passion for French has made changes in the lives of Dr. Richard Gray, director of French, and the students of the French Club here at Ashland University. What started in East Tennessee has traveled north and created a newfound goal: sending help to Haiti.

Led by Dr. Gray and French Club President Bri Sargent, the mission to send school supplies to a parish to the poorest countries in the western world is happening once again.

Dr. Gray, who has been working with Saint Barnet Parish in Haiti, has done this for over 12 years.

“We originally wanted to go to a French restaurant. The rough estimate would be $60.00 per person,” he said.

Bri Sargent, president of the French club, then came and asked him if he was working on anything the club could help with or can get involved in.

“What I have been involved in for the past 12 years… I have been working with correspondents from this parish priest who is soliciting funds. We collect funds and send them down to the parish to help rebuild the school,” Sargent said.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Due to the constant natural disasters that tear through the small country, the process of rebuilding anything there is nearly impossible.

“As they rebuild, they are hit by a hurricane. And as they rebuild from that, they are hit by another hurricane,” Gray said.

From hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne in 2004 to the country’s deadliest earthquake in 2010, the French-speaking country has been forced to completely start over. The constant destruction was making it impossible for Haitians to lead their lives.

Gray pointed to his desk, specifically to the pens and pencils on it.

“Even the needs for pens and pencils are necessary. We take that for granted sometimes,” he said.

The club began fundraising with the crepe sale and the French film festival that was held last fall.

“We just passed around a box and collected change,” Sargent said.

Gray even donated royalties from his own works that he used to help the cause.

The amount that they hope to raise is this semester is near $1,000. This will allow those who live in Haiti to not worry about spending money on supplies for their kids. The yearly income for a Haitian family is $350.

“Imagine having to survive on $350.00 a year alone,” Gray mentioned.

To have this fundraiser is a great thing but sending it there is not so easy.

“It takes roughly six months for the items to be shipped there. It’s not like Amazon,” Gray informs.

To get all of what they raised to Haiti, it has to go through Tennessee, Miami, and then those working at the parish in Haiti must pick it up at a different location.

Gray and the French club did not do this alone. He garnered help all the way in Pennsylvania.

“I have a colleague out in Pennsylvania and her and her student sold t-shirts,” he said.

Bri Sargent spoke on the fundraiser and how it changed the club as a whole.

“We wanted to revive the French Club and we wanted to do more than French. We played French games, watched French movies but we wanted to do more,” she said.

Dr. Gray mentioned the Saint Bainet parish in Haiti.

“This would be a worthy cause for the French club to work towards. All of us are hanging out together but we are doing it for a great cause. It bonded us together by helping others and loving French,” Sargent said.

Both Dr. Gray and the member of French club want everyone to help out. On January 22, the French club has partnered with Chipotle to help with this cause. Come into the Chipotle at 1988 East Main (US-250) in Ashland between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm.

“There will be positive benefits in the long run. The seeds that you are sowing are creating a better life for those who need it,” Gray said.