By Tom Donahue
all it BonaResponds with a twist. Instead of
sending volunteers out into the world to
help those in need, St. Bonaventure puts out
the welcome mat and invites the world in.
And so it was that 13 students from Haiti spent three
weeks on campus in October, participants in Bona's and
Beyond: Haiti, the first in a planned series of educational
and cultural exchanges with students from other nations
striving to make a difference in their worlds.
The pay-it-forward initiative is designed to help others
by teaching them ways to help themselves.
The idea, fittingly enough, came from a Haitian student
with ties to BonaResponds founder and St. Bonaventure
finance professor James Mahar.
Mahar and a handful of BonaResponds leaders first
went to Haiti in 2010, after an earthquake there killed
more than 100,000 people and left parts of the Caribbean
nation in ruins. Because Haiti is on the State Department's
"Travel Warning" list, that trip and two subsequent jour-
neys were not actual BonaResponds trips. Volunteers trav-
eled on their own and worked with other relief groups.
The visitors were left with two powerful impressions:
The incredible damage inflicted by the earthquake and the
level of need everywhere. "The poverty was overwhelm-
ing, there's just no other way to put it," said Mahar. "We
started working and have been active there to this day."
Mahar and the others made important connections in
Haiti, establishing a relief pipeline for donations of money,
materials and know-how. BonaResponds has since coordi-
nated the delivery of more than 140 pallets of supplies,
donations of more than 1,000 trees to be planted to com-
bat deforestation, and funding for five garden programs,
two soccer programs, and solar electric for three schools.
One of those connections was Lamarre Presuma, a law
Jim Mahar is always
looking for ways to
pay it forward. A new
initiative brought 13
Haitian students to
campus to help them
plan their country's