Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Helping Haiti

As I sit at my desk and type, I feel sorrow for the people of Haiti. I cannot imagine the scene there. I see pictures on the news, but I'm sure the pictures don't give any justice to the damage. I still can't fathom the destruction and actually living in the middle of it without anything, even basic necessities like food and water. It seems unreal to me.

Like many Americans, Todd and I felt compelled to do something. There isn't much we can do except give money and pray for the situation. When we started looking into the giving opportunities, there are so many organizations you can give money to, and many will do all they can to provide help to the people of Haiti. But, one thing we noticed is a lot of smaller organizations and missionary groups that were accepting donations. I found it odd that some local churches were even mentioned on the evening news as taking up collections from the public for Haiti. I applaud their efforts and I'm sure every group will do all that they can in Haiti with whatever resources they have. The fact that every little bit helps is amazing. While there is nothing wrong with giving to smaller organization, your donation may go farther with organizations experienced in disaster relief.

The need in Haiti is so great that larger organizations and groups ready for emergency situations have the greatest ability to respond in this type of situation. Many of the larger organizations have hundreds of people already on the ground in Haiti doing work, or on standby to mobilize in a disaster of this size. They have the supply chain, funds, and people to make things happen - move food, provide medical support, and assist with search, rescue, or recovery. Additionally, they have the ability to stay for long periods of time and continue to fund raise for rebuilding efforts down the road. Many of the larger organizations, like the Red Cross or World Food Programme often work with the government to coordinate efforts, which is important to make sure the impact is immediate and widespread (as conditions allow).

But, be careful as you research where your donations should go. Organizations like Yele Haiti, which has been widely advertised in the aftermath of the earthquake, already exist in Haiti, however they are not very large and don't have any expertise in disaster relief. Some have reported improper use of funds by this group in years past. Look at sites like Charity Navigator to see how these organizations are rated, how they use their funds, and what people are saying about them.

In terms of Haiti relief, CNN appears to have the best and most comprehensive list for donating to organizations. The list is long. It is interesting to read other blogs on donating, philanthropy, and the Haiti disaster. Some have called for one, united disaster relief agency, or at least a shorter list of organizations to act as first responders so that the funds can be channeled to the disaster right away. People like choices and want to give to the organizations they are most interested in. However, the idea of one or fewer agencies is good concept we should all consider in order to save the most lives and make the best use of funds when disaster strikes.

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