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Student Project Continues to Raise Money for Haiti Relief

Three business administration seniors at Loyola Marymount University, Jack Bazerkanian, Brandin Cohen, Melissa Stirling, set in January an ambitious goal for a class project: raise $20,000 in two weeks for the earthquake survivors in Haiti. The students didn’t meet their goal in the two-week period, but that hasn’t stopped them extending their deadline until the end of the semester.

“We couldn’t just stop, even though the class project did. It’s not like the people in Haiti don’t need the financial help,” Stirling said. “So far, we’ve raised about $5,000 and we’re still actively trying to raise more money.”

The original assignment was part of Professor Elissa Grossman’s business entrepreneurship course. Her students spend two weeks creating value out of a mundane object. Paper was the item selected this semester. Bazerkanian, Cohen and Stirling asked donors to create a paper doll and contribute $1. In addition to raising money, the students aimed at a Guinness World Record for the longest paper doll chain. The current record is 20,000 paper dolls held by a group of students in France.

 “It’s been crazy challenging, but it’s also been fun and inspiring trying to touch the lives of people living 3,000 miles away,” Cohen said.

The students have built a Web site (www.linkedforhaiti.com), created a Facebook page, which now has more than 2,300 fans, and designed collection jars that have been distributed at nearby stores and restaurants. Trader Joe’s grocery store has agreed to donate all of the paper bags, and the Manhattan Beach City Council and the Los Angeles Fire Department have donated and created paper dolls as well.

“We’re not done yet and we’re still looking for more community partnerships and donations. We really want to make a huge difference … and be a reminder to the people [in Haiti] that the world stood with them,” Stirling said.

The students also collaborated with several elementary and junior high schools. For every dollar donated, students have been decorating the paper dolls. “The young kids get it without us explaining charity to them. They are so sweet and just want to send their love,” Stirling said.

Donors are asked to create a paper doll, then mail it along with $1 or more to the Lighthouse Charitable Foundation: 311 N. Robertson Blvd., Suite 151, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. The deadline is April 30. Each dollar pays for four meals in Haiti; 100 percent of all donations goes to serve the people in Haiti.

“A dollar can go a long way. You’re a part of a bigger cause when you help someone,” Stirling said. “I think people can get stuck in their own worlds, but my hope is that they expand beyond themselves.”

For more information, click here to connect to the group’s Facebook fan page.

Posted April 5, 2010