Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 3
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
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Princeton Mobilizes for Earthquake Victims

Ellen Gilbert

“Today all tips will be donated for a Relief Mission to Haiti,” reads a sign adjacent to the cash register in The Little Chef bakery on South Tulane Street. “Please, please, we need your help.”

From Mr. Fils-Aimé’s hand-made sign to more formal announcements from Princeton University and local non-profit agencies, the Princeton community mobilized last week in a variety of efforts to aid earthquake-riven Haiti.

Haitian-born Edwige Fils-Aimé, the eponymous “little chef,” (or “Pouchon” to friends and regulars), said that he has been trying to call relatives in Port-au-Prince, “but there’s no answer.” Other family living further south, he said, reported that they were “injured,” but “are okay.”

“It will be days and possibly weeks before we can fathom completely the magnitude of this calamity,” said Representative Rush Holt (NJ-12) in a statement released shortly after the January 12 earthquake. “What we have begun to hear is heartbreaking and tragic. The nation’s infrastructure, already one of the poorest in the world, has broken down, destroying schools, hospitals, and government buildings. Relief offices have collapsed and their staff workers are among the victims. Our hearts and prayers are focused most on Haitians trapped in rubble, injured, or who have died.”

For those with relatives in Haiti, the State Department has set up a Victims’ Family Hotline at 1-888-407-4747.

Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes called on residents to support relief efforts. “Mercer County is home to many, many people from Haiti and, just as importantly, this county is home to residents who recognize and respond to tragedies when called upon,” said Mr. Hughes. “I ask that we all do what we can in the form of donations to the American Red Cross and other legitimate agencies.”

A statement on the Township’s website ( notes that “The Mayor and Township Committee of Princeton Township join with communities across New Jersey and the U.S. to extend a helping hand to the people of Haiti following the devastating earthquake. Please help by contributing to one of the many organizations working in the relief effort.” The site provides a link to the New Jersey State League of Municipalities’ “Update on U.S. Relief Efforts in Haiti.”

“The indescribable disaster in Haiti has touched all of us, including members, staff, and friends of the Princeton Family YMCA,” said Board Chairman David C. Sandahl and Chief Executive Officer Kate Bech in a letter to the community. “As international agencies and national governments rally to provide relief, the World Alliance of YMCAs is also engaged in this humanitarian enterprise.”

At Princeton University, a nondenominational gathering met in the Chapel for a Vigil for Haiti on Thursday evening. The gathering, which was sponsored by the University’s Office of Religious Life, included prayers, silence, spoken reflections, a choral anthem, and the lighting of candles led by the Deans of Religious Life, the Chapel Choir, and the Catholic chaplain.

“Although no currently enrolled Princeton students appear to have been in Haiti during the earthquake, a number of University employees have family members who live in the country and are affected,” said a statement released by the University. “The Office of Human Resources is communicating with employees about services and benefits available, including emergency confidential counseling.”

Mr. Fils-Aimé’s American-born niece, Claudine Petit, was already planning to go on a service mission to Haiti when the earthquake struck. “It’s terrible because Haiti has always suffered,” observed the young woman, who can often be seen helping out in the store. “I’m more anxious now, but there’s even more reason to go.”

Links to agencies collecting money for the Haitian relief effort include InterAction, a coalition of U.S.-based international non-governmental organizations at; AMURT (Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team) a private voluntary organization of Third World origin at; the International Rescue Committee at or (877) REFUGEE; Oxfam’s emergency appeal at; and Partners in Health at Individuals can donate $10 to the American Red Cross by texting “HAITI” to “90999.” The amount will be added to the user’s next phone bill. The organization is also accepting donations through its International Response Fund,

State Department information for donations can be found at

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