Helping the People of Haiti: Make your response count

As we continue to see images and hear reports from Haiti in the wake of the devastating magnitude 7 earthquake that hit the island nation on January 12, we are moved by compassion to respond.

We want to collect things that we believe would be useful and send them to Haiti in the hopes that they will get to the people in need. Some of us want to go there to help ease the pain of survivors and to help with recovery.

As in any disaster, however, it’s less about what we want than about the needs of those people we’re trying to help.

The very best thing that you can do right now is to donate to vetted organizations responding to the crisis. Monetary donations provide the organizations with flexibility – they can use the money to respond to needs as they are identified in real time.

And as online donations have evolved, many organizations are able to accept smaller amounts, so you can give as little (or as much) as you can afford. Some organizations are even able to accept pre-determined donation amounts via text messaging.

How can you help?

  • Cash donations to reputable responding organizations are preferred. InterAction, “the largest coalition of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations focused on the world’s poor and most vulnerable people,” provides a list of vetted, reputable organizations responding to the crisis. The list is updated daily, includes over 70 organizations & links to their websites, and gives an overview of what the organization is doing to address the current situation. InterAction also shares guidelines for the most effective ways to help.  I’m also a member of 12for12k, which is supporting Hope for Haiti.  In the words of 12for12k founder Danny Brown:

I chose Hope for Haiti for 12for12k’s support because they’ve been in the area for 20 years; they’re on the ground now; they know the needs of the people; the hardships they already faced and what they will face, and how to deal with that locally. Additionally, they give over $0.95 per dollar to the fund – I think that’s pretty good cause for support.

  • Be wary of fundraising scams. While disaster brings out the best in most people, it can also lead others to questionable actions. Be diligent in your research and donate only to reputable, responding organizations using legitimate websites.
  • Do not self-deploy as a volunteer. Consider volunteering locally to:
    • learn more about disaster preparedness and response opportunities in your community.
    • discover how you can make the best use of your unique skills following disaster.
    • become affiliated with a responding organization prior to the next disaster.
    • organize a fundraiser to support one of the responding organizations.
  • Do not organize item collections at this time. If items have already been collected, please donate them locally. Why? Donated items require shipping, storage, and someone to manage and distribute them. Often during large-scale disasters, this infrastructure doesn’t exist. Items either don’t get to their intended destination or, lacking adequate storage, they must be destroyed to prevent the spread of mold and illness.

Organizations will provide updates about relevant volunteer opportunities (from local to international) as they learn more, but for the moment trained, affiliated and specialized volunteers are being used first. A select number of responding agencies are requesting specialized volunteers – more information can be found on their websites.

Please be patient. As much as we all want to do something immediately to make the situation better, understand that the survivors in Haiti will need our help for days, weeks, months and years to come. This is not a situation that will be resolved quickly, and as the recovery process unfolds there will be plenty of opportunities to help.

Thank you for commitment to helping others.

Photo credits:  Catherine Lainé / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


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