Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 27, 2010



RESERVE – As she watched the devastation unfold following the massive earthquake in Haiti, India Allen remembered what it was like a little closer to home when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans over four years ago.

“It was a little difficult to watch,” said Allen, a 16-year-old junior at East St. John High School, “seeing all the kids in the street with no food and no place to sleep. Knowing how rough it was here after Katrina, I couldn’t just sit there and do nothing.”

With the help of East St. John Principal Patricia Triche, Allen instituted an aggressive Red Cross fundraiser with all of the proceeds going to Haitian relief. In the weeks that followed, Allen and fellow East St. John students raised more than $2,500 for relief efforts.

“When students come to me with ideas like this, I let them run with it and encourage them to see it through to the finish,” Triche said. “It is the kind of learning experience that will have a lasting effect, and it shows that one person can make a difference.”

Incentives like a “dress down” day and a New Orleans Saints-themed pep rally helped motivate students to contribute, but Allen said a tremendous amount of the funds raised came from students bringing in whatever they could everyday.

“I knew that I could encourage most of my closer friends to get involved, but I never expected it to become such an outpouring,” Allen said. “Everyone was so positive about it, and everyone wanted to contribute.”

Allen’s mother, Renetta Maze, said she was surprised by how quickly her teenaged daughter was willing to sacrifice time and energy to help a community so far away.

“It was just so out of the blue,” Maze said. “We have no link to Haiti. She just saw what was happening and wanted to act.”

Kay Williams, a representative for Red Cross in New Orleans, said the money raised would go to the Red Cross International Relief Fund to be put toward shelters, tarps, water and food.

“In a situation such as what happened in Haiti, where myriad challenges have blocked relief efforts, money is the easiest way to get help to the Haitian people,” Williams said.

“People in this region have been so generous with donations. I think it is because we understand what it is like to lose a community. India’s efforts show the power of one person’s idea.”

When she is not buried in homework or raising funds for small island nations, Allen is a student manager for the boys junior varsity and varsity basketball teams at East St. John. She is also an active member of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church in Reserve.

After high school, Allen said she wants to pursue a degree in law and criminal justice at Southern University in Baton Rouge.

“I am a very argumentative person,” Allen said. “I like talking, and I like defending people, so it is a good fit.”