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Brenau plans Haitian culture night, fundraiser
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Macita St. Germain, right, talks Monday about the earthquake that hit her native country Haiti as Bill Lightfoot, dean of business and mass communication at Brenau University in Gainesville, watches. Brenau will host Taste of Haiti, a cultural event and fundraiser, on Feb. 11. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

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Listen as Bill Lightfoot, a Brenau University dean, talks about a Feb. 11 fundraising event that will highlight Haitian culture.

Taste of Haiti
Folk dancing and art, food and a silent auction fundraiser
When: 6-9 p.m. Feb. 11
Where: John W. Jacobs Jr. Building, Brenau University, 500 Washington St. SE, Gainesville

Macita and Yamatha St. Germain want to show people what Haiti was like before the Jan. 12 earthquake that laid the island nation to ruin.

"The pictures they are seeing now are not what it used to be like, way before," said Yamatha, 18, a junior at Brenau University in Gainesville.

The sisters are working with Brenau administrators and others about holding an event that celebrates Haitian culture.

"Taste of Haiti," set for Feb. 11 at Brenau’s John W. Jacobs Jr. Building, will feature food, music, dancing and art, but also will serve as a fundraiser.

"It’s really a cultural and history event, and raising awareness of Haiti," said Bill Lightfoot, dean of Brenau’s School of Business and Mass Communication. "What we decided last week is that we really wanted to do something that had ongoing impact."

Organizers are looking at sending money the event raises through donations and a silent auction "directly to scholarships to support these kids getting their education," he said.

"That way, we can have a sustainable, ongoing impact. Hopefully, those kids will get the benefit of a good education and then be part of the solution in helping build back Haiti."

The magnitude-7.0 earthquake has killed as many as 200,000 people, according to some news reports. About 700,000 others are living on the streets around Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, under whatever items they can salvage.

After the tragedy happened, "we felt kind of useless, in a way, because we’re over here and people over there were suffering," said Yamatha, born in the U.S. but schooled in Haiti.

"We wanted to find a way to help," she added.

The sisters didn’t lose any family members in the disaster, said Macita, who was born in Haiti and has lived in the U.S. for 22 years, working now as a preschool teacher.

But they know others who have lost loved ones, she added.

"My family lost their homes, but those can be rebuilt," said Macita, 39.

Lightfoot said event organizers expect that whatever is donated will "go to help the kids."

"Haiti’s educational system is a mess, especially (kindergarten through 12th grade)," he said. "We thought that the impact that would be the greatest ... is to invest in the children."

Ted Garner, director of media services at Brenau, said the school hopes to develop a "special relationship with the institutes of higher education (in Haiti)."

"They are just totally devastated," said Garner, who earned his doctorate in Haiti. "My alma mater ... is just nothing more than a mass of rubble."

Places close to Yamatha’s heart also fell in a matter of seconds.

"The church where I had my first communion is gone. My confirmation, gone. My old school is gone," she said. "It’s like everything you knew is gone.

"You just got to hope that it’s going to be better."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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