Normally, I like to blog about hobbies, music and things I do for fun. However, the earthquake in Haiti has been what occupies much of my thoughts lately. Seeing human misery on such a scale, it is impossible not to want to help. I haven’t suddenly morphed into a newshound who stays glued to the TV or internet 24/7, but I have found myself thinking of the people affected and trying to find ways to help. From what I hear from friends, I know I’m not the only one thinking this way. To put things in perspective, I saw in today’s news that the casualties from this earthquake are on a par with those from the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 - but they’re all in one country rather than scattered across several.
I find it encouraging that so many want to help in Haiti. Short of going there as a relief worker, the best that most of us can do is to donate funds. I know that giving money seems impersonal and I’ve seen a number of efforts to put together goods to send to Haiti. However, having worked as a relief worker in the past, I know that sending goods is not the most efficient way to do things for several reasons. For starters, aid groups on the ground are best able to assess what they need – and needs may change from day to day. One day a group may be in urgent need of water, but then needs for medication and/or clothing may take precedence later on. Also, I know from where I once worked that the address to which items may be shipped is not necessarily where groups will be heading out to work -and funds are far more portable than crates of various goods. Funds also don’t incur the same transportation costs that goods do.
Sadly, as happens with many tragedies on this scale, the scam artists start to come out. I know some folks have worried that the message to text “Haiti” to 90999 in order to donate to the International Red Cross may be a scam. It isn’t. This is backed by the US State Department and it allows quick, easy donations for disaster relief services.
In addition, when donating to groups, I would suggest investigating groups to see how they use thier money. You can do this via websites such as Charity Navigator or GuideStar. When considering a group to give to, be sure that you are searching the correct name of the group. It is not unheard of for scam artists to use a name similar to that of a legitimate charity. And last but not least, here is a list of vetted charities doing work in Haiti. I know I’ve already tweeted that last link, but I believe it’s been expanded since then.
For all of our readers who are in Haiti or who have loved ones there (and I know there are at least a few of you), I hope you and your families are safe. You are in our thoughts.