Lucky escape for students

Twelve members of the UCD Volunteers Overseas (UCDVO) charity organisation arrived back from Haiti on Monday January 11, just a day before the massive earthquake that measured 7.0 on the Richter scale struck the Caribbean nation. The team of volunteers had spent two weeks building two houses in Gros Morne, a town that is a seven hour drive north of the capital Port-au-Prince.
While still recovering from jet lag, the volunteers were faced with the devastating news of the earthquake and their immediate thoughts were with the many friends they had left behind on the island. Eventually, after some degree of difficulty, they managed to contact their partners in the project and the new friends they had made over the two weeks.
According to Commerce graduate Marc McCabe (25), from Clonskeagh, despite one nun, a member of the UCDVO’s missionary partners the Sisters of Jesus and Mary who suffered a shattered shoulder, “the majority seem to be OK.” This is in part thanks to the fact that the town of Gros Morne was not directly affected by the disaster,  as unlike the capital Port-au-Prince, the town was not sufficiently near the epicentre of the earthquake for a great deal of damage to be caused.
The volunteers have also expressed great relief at having made it out of the country safely themselves. Speaking to the Evening Herald, Accountancy student Patrick O’Neill (24), from Murrintown, Wexford, said: “It has definitely crossed our minds that we could easily still have been there because everyone has been saying ‘thank God you’re home’ so there is great relief.”
UCD has been sending volunteers to Haiti since 2005, a country that student Marc McCabe described as being; “already in disarray before the earthquake even struck.” Despite the volunteers now being back in Ireland, they are continuing to strive to help the country in its time of need. Since Wednesday January 14, UCDVO have been running an appeal for funds to aid the relief operations and its Manager, Caroline O’Connor, has called on any students with ideas for events to raise funds to contact the group.
Events that have already taken place include a nightclub fundraiser in BaseBar last Friday 22nd January, while members of UCDVO have been visible on Grafton Street collecting money over the past two weeks.
Haiti continues to be in disarray, after a new earthquake jolted Port-Au-Prince late last week complicating aid efforts and prompting the US to pledge 4’000 more soldiers to the relief force.
 Seismologists said the epicentre was about 35 miles south-west of the city and the focus was six miles deep. They warned of possible stronger aftershocks to come as the earth adjusted to new stresses caused by the original quake.
“Sometimes [they] die out very quickly. In other cases they can go on for weeks, or if we’re really unlucky it could go on for months,” explained Bruce Pressgrave, of the US Geological Survey.