UF documentary student back in U.S., recalls 'powder keg' in Haiti

Cindy Terasme screams after seeing the feet of her dead 14-year-old brother Jean Gaelle Dersmorne in the rubble of the collapsed St. Gerard School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010. A 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti Tuesday.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Published: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 11:32 p.m.

(Update published 5:14 p.m.) University of Florida student Jon Bougher had been back in the U.S. less than a day and already was talking about returning to Haiti.


How you can help

American Red Cross
Text: “HAITI” to “90999” for a $10 donation. The amount will be added to your next phone bill.
The organization is also accepting donations through its International Response Fund, www.redcross.org 1-800-REDCROSS 1724 N.E. Second St., Gainesville, FL 32609
Club Creole at UF
Yele Haiti, founded in 2005 by musician Wyclef Jean to bring hope to those in Haiti, is collecting donations for earthquake relief. Club Creole is collecting donations to be distributed by Yele Haiti. Text: “YELE” to “501501” for a $5 donation
Project Haiti,UF medical students www.projhaiti.org
Donations will buy medicine, bottled water, canned food and other supplies. Project Haiti volunteers will be on the ground in Port-au-Prince on March 6. Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)www.doctorswithoutborders.org/donate/
Already have medical personnel treating the injured in Port-au-Prince.
Local churchescollecting donations
Trinity United Methodist Church
Grace United Methodist Church
First Assembly of God
Sister Hazel D. Williams collects items for disaster relief along with Trinity United Methodist Church. Call or e-mail her because the drop-off location varies. Phone: 378-9496; E-mail: missionevangelist@yahoo.com
Gators United for Haiti
Donations will be collected at a candlelight vigil at 7 tonight in the Reitz Union amphitheater on the University of Florida campus. Gators United for Haiti accepts donations in the form of cash or checks (checks must be made out to the University of Florida). If you wish to make a donation by credit card, the student group recommends making it to the Red Cross or Yele Haiti.

Bougher was one of two UF graduate students shooting a documentary in Haiti when Tuesday's earthquake struck. The students were in a Port-au-Prince suburb at an orphanage run by the aid organization that was the subject of the documentary. Bougher thought at first the rumbling was a big truck driving past.

"The farthest thing in my mind is there would be an earthquake in Haiti," he said.

After it became clear what had happened, he started documenting the devastation. But because he had been shooting all day, he had enough power for only about 40 minutes of footage. That's why he's now talking about returning to the island.

"We need to go back to Haiti, (but) we need to know if things are going to be stable enough to do that," he said.

Bougher on Thursday returned to the U.S. on a flight to Miami. He stayed that night with the family of his Documentary Institute student partner, Roman Safiullin, in Fort Lauderdale as they awaited Roman's return. Safiullin first had flown to the Dominican Republic and was expected to fly into the U.S. around midnight Friday.

After the earthquake, the students' families endured a prolonged delay in information before finding out Thursday morning they were safe. Bougher said he was unaware of the attention their situation had received -- including media coverage and a university-wide e-mail from UF President Bernie Machen.

"We had no idea, actually," he said.

While the students and orphans were safe, others in the area weren't so lucky. About 20 nearby homes collapsed, he said. Bodies were being pulled from the rubble -- including a man whose wallet revealed pictures of his family.

"You knew they were going to pull his entire family out," he said.

Another memorable image, he said, was dozens of people standing in the street with their arms to the sky, thanking Jesus. He said the scene was grim but that there were signs of hope -- such as about 200 people he saw singing together.

But Bougher said he worried the country was a "powder keg" because of the massive scale of the destruction. One of his documentary subjects, John Dieubon, drove around loading the back of his ambulance with dead bodies.

"He was in a daze like I've never seen him before, really concerned about the future of his country," Bougher said.

He said he hopes the earthquake will provide a wake-up call about the type of conditions faced by the Haitian people.

"I really hope people use this as an opportunity to learn about Haiti, to learn about the situation in Third World countries," Bougher said.

Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or nathan.crabbe@gvillesun.com.

For updates and to comment, visit Nathan Crabbe's The Chalkboard Blog

UF students safe in Haiti; Gainesville tries to help

(Original article published 6 a.m. Friday) The families of two University of Florida students shooting a documentary in Haiti had their tense wait for information end Thursday when they received word the students were safe.

Now they're preparing to welcome the students home from the earthquake-stricken country.

Graduate students Roman Safiullin and Jon Bougher had been working on a documentary about the aid organization Planting Peace when a 7.0 earthquake hit Tuesday. Their families had tried unsuccessfully to reach them before the head of Planting Peace reported Thursday morning that the students were alive and well.

Bougher's mother, Sara, received a call from her son later that day. She said the students expected to fly as early as today to the Dominican Republic and then to Miami.

"They'll hopefully be home soon," she said.

As other news coming from Haiti grew increasingly grim Thursday, groups across Gainesville stepped up relief efforts and Shands at UF prepared to accept the injured.

A UF group initially formed to help Haiti deal with four hurricanes that struck the island in 2008 - Gators United for Haiti - was re-established with the goal of raising $50,000 for earthquake relief efforts.

"We're hoping and praying that people will join hands with us and raise money as soon as possible," said Sky Georges, a UF student involved in the group.

A candlelight vigil for the earthquake victims has been moved to tonight at 7 in the Reitz Union amphitheater, where donations will be collected. A Facebook page and Twitter account have been established to spread word about the effort.

The Florida Hospital Association held a conference call Thursday to coordinate about 200 hospitals for a possible response to the Haitian disaster. Kim Rose, speaking on behalf of Shands at UF, said as a designated "first receiver," Shands is on standby to help with relief efforts. At this point, the hospital system has not received any patients injured in the earthquake.

"We are ready to respond if called," she said.

Rose said that in another scenario, patients at South Florida hospitals might be moved farther north to open beds for the earthquake victims. Hospitals will provide the state with updates on bed availability. The FHA emphasized that hospitals should not plan to send personnel to Haiti immediately because of the lack of facilities to provide for them.

"We are asking any health care provider who is interested to register individually on the state Web site for emergency responders, www.servfl.com," Rose said.

Elsewhere in Gainesville, students and others with connections to Haiti were awaiting word about loved ones. Georges, an English major and a native of Haiti, put his father on a flight to Haiti on Tuesday, hours before the earthquake.

He said Thursday he still was awaiting word from his father or other family members, who had been assembling for his brother's wedding.

"We haven't heard much," he said.

Planting Peace President Aaron Jackson was in Florida when the earthquake hit. He was unable to reach anyone on the island throughout the day Wednesday as earthquake damage disrupted communication.

He said Thursday that he apparently overlooked a phone message letting him know the group's orphanages and everyone there were "safe and well."

"This is a great moment," he said shortly after getting the news.

The UF students had arrived Sunday and planned to return Wednesday. Bougher's sister, Gabrielle Bougher, said she and her mother, who both work at the same school, took off Wednesday and Thursday to wait for information at the family's New Hampshire home.

She said her family had decided against watching television coverage as they waited by the phone, and were relieved when the news finally came. Sara Bougher, Jon Bougher's mother, said she felt "dazed" when her son called later that day and didn't get information on his whereabouts during the quake or what had happened since.

She said her son was unaware of the attention the mystery about his condition had received.

"He didn't realize how big this thing had blown up to be," she said.

The students are seeking master's degrees in journalism as part of UF's Documentary Institute.

Program Director Churchill Roberts said the news about their safety was an "incredible relief" to members of the program. He said he's now curious about whether the students were able to document the earthquake or its aftermath.

"Now that I know they're safe, I'm beginning to wonder what the footage is like," he said.

The purpose of the visit was to shoot footage of Planting Peace opening a school outside of Port-au-Prince. Gabrielle Bougher said her brother had said his documentary was missing a big event or something to tie it all together.

"I guess he got his big event," she said.

Staff writer Diane Chun contributed to this report. Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or nathan.crabbe@gvillesun.com.

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