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Local high school students start Haiti fundraising effort

East Ridge High School students, Joaqum Valdes, Shua Bhattacharya, Melanie Rabino and Erin Yockey have started a fundraising effort for the Haiti earthquake victims, called "Hearts for Haiti."

The earthquake in Haiti has touched a lot of people, and a lot of people are reaching out to the Haitians. Several students at East Ridge High School were touched so much by the disaster that they have started a new fundraising group called "Hearts for Haiti."

"It seemed like we're really powerless here," said Hearts for Haiti co-founder Shua Bhattacharya. "But, we all realized that since we're so sad about it, we should do something."

Bhattacharya started Hearts for Haiti with four other ERHS students -- Erin Yockey, Melanie Rabina, Vincent Bedard and Joaqum Valdes.

"I've just been watching the news and I was really affected by it," Rabino said.

Since Jan. 18 Hearts for Haiti has been collecting money during sporting events, lunch periods and classrooms that will be donated to The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF.) So far, Hearts of Haiti had collected $350. The collection will continue through Jan. 29.

In addition to have collection jars, Hearts for Haiti will also be selling ribbons -- either silver or the tri-color Haiti flag -- for $1 or $5 as a way to show support for the Haitians.

Bhattacharya said the decision to have the fundraiser be only a two-week stretch came from the fact that they are trying to raise as much money as possible as soon as possible.

"We're really gonna push the students and touch their hearts," she said. "We're just counting on people to have that compassion, that heart, and realize that they're not the only ones who matter -- there are other people who need help."

Valdes said an important component of Hearts for Haiti is that they're not only trying to raise money, but also trying to raise awareness about what has happened in Haiti and the need that is there.

"A lot of times you ask people for money, they'll give it to you, but it's really senseless," he said. "Tut if you make people aware, that's where you can inspire."

For more information about Hearts for Haiti, or to donate, you can visit the Facebook group at or you may contact Shua Bhataacharya at

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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