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Once left with nothing after Haiti earthquake, Herriman teen wants to help those affected by latest earthquake

Herriman High School students Sofia Ampudia, left, Clark Fiedler and Ashinti St. Clair are photographed at Cucina in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. The students have formed Union for Haiti and have partnered with Cucina to raise money to buy 1,000 tents for people living in Haiti.

Herriman High School students Sofia Ampudia, left, Clark Fiedler and Ashinti St. Clair are photographed at Cucina in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. The students have formed Union for Haiti and have partnered with Cucina to raise money to buy 1,000 tents for people living in Haiti. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)


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Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

HERRIMAN — At just 6 years old, Ashinti St. Clair remembers escaping her home as an earthquake swept in and crumbled everything around her.

"Me and my mom ... she was bleeding because all the debris from the house around us, that all fell onto us. And my mom, she took me under her, kind of wrapped me around like a ball, and she went out with me so everything that could have hurt me hurt her instead," Ashinti, who is now a high school senior, recalled.

They and 18 other family members who shared the house took refuge — along with all of their neighbors — in the parking lot of a car dealership. Hospitals were full as the now-infamous January 2010 earthquake in Haiti had killed hundreds of thousands of people and injured many others. Ashinti recalls that she and her mother put "sour" oranges and salt into their wounds, as no other treatment was available.

They stayed in the parking lot for a month. No tents. No bedding.

"Because everything we had was inside the house that got destroyed," Ashinti recalled.

She said the children had only a small covering to use when they slept.

The family rebuilt their home little by little and room by room, Ashinti said. After the earthquake, most businesses were shut down, meaning no work. Her mom first got some metal and they began building a wall with that, and then they began adding bricks. They stayed in the unfinished home until summer, when her mom got a job. It took the rest of the year to finish rebuilding their home.

Six years later, Ashinti joined her dad in the U.S. She is a student at Herriman High School and when another major earthquake struck her home country in August, she wanted to give back.

She didn't want others to go through what she went through.

"And so I'm like, OK, that's something I can ask the school if they can help me with," Ashinti explained.

She went to her Future Business Leaders of America group, and they wanted to join in a project to send tents to people left without shelter in Haiti.

"I think my biggest motivation was empathizing with Ashinti," said group member Sofia Ampudia, who is from Mexico.

She could connect with Ashinti's experiences based on her own time in Mexico.

"So just having your opportunity to make a change by yourself, it's your chance," Sofia said.

Clark Fiedler, another of Ashinti's peers, said that out of the choices of projects, none sounded as rewarding as helping people in another country.

"I've lived in America all my life, I haven't experienced anything like this," he said. "It's kind of cool to be able to help others in need and maybe be able to help understand how people feel."

The teens started a campaign asking donors to purchase tents on Amazon, which will send them to a Connecticut nonprofit that helps people in Haiti. Those who show proof of their donation can get a free sandwich from Cucina in Salt Lake City. Cucina is also donating a portion of proceeds during the month of October for the fundraising project.

The project seeks to send at least 500 to 1,000 tents to Haiti. Each tent is less than $25, Ashinti noted.

After launching last Wednesday, the project has so far raised enough for about 200 tents, she said.

"Honestly, the tents will go a super long ways. Because like I said, everybody is just sleeping in the street with nothing over their head. The tent will help a lot. It will bring a home to somebody, literally," Ashinti said.

Those interested in helping send tents to Haiti can purchase them on Amazon by searching "Union for Haiti" in custom gift registries.

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