The whole world’s eyes are on Haiti now, as the poorest country in the Americas faces yet another devastating disaster. Death toll has now reached over 200,000 at Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital. These numbers are still increasing as survivors are losing patience with the painfully slow process of getting international aid.
As I sit facing horrifying images of desperation on the streets of Haiti, dumping of bodies in mass graves and violent looting occurring, it’s hard not to feel inflicted with the urge to help. I’m glad to have seen so many organizations, countries support teams and media channels acting so quickly to lend a hand.
Matador Network – Join in as a Volunteer
Matador Network, one of the online travel networks I work with, responded immediately. Editor Julie Schwietert launched a volunteering project on the night of the disaster - using social media to convince JetBlue to fly a plane full of volunteers to nearby Santo Domingo. Julie has been working around the clock since, to coordinate with ground staff and seeking help from the Haitian Consulate in NYC. Check for daily updates here.
The response has been overwhelming, they are now prioritizing on looking for volunteers with medical experience and or Creole/French language skills. If you are interested in jumping on the plane and offering your help on the ground, email Julie directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the Matador volunteers, Vladimir Tilus has already arrived in Port-au-Prince last night. Vladimir delivered water and food to the children of the Bresma orphanage, as they had run out of water completely and food was running low. Though the kids are not out of danger yet, these critical supplies will help them hang on a bit longer.
Support Worthy Organizations
BBC has a list of charities involved in the relief effort – useful for donors based in the UK. Contact the charity organizations directly to find out how you can help.
CNN also put together a comprehensive list of aid organizations, categorized by services being provided: basic needs, shelter, medical aid, and food.
Paul Clammer, the author of Lonely Planet Haiti guide, advised interested parties to support these three organizations in Haiti:
I’d like to mention three excellent smaller organizations in Haiti worthy of your support – these are the sort of smaller players who inevitably get overlooked in the media scrum, but often have more focused and effective programs working among local communities – essential characteristics once the immediate heavy lifting of disaster relief is over, and the media and world inevitably turn their attention to the next story.
Partners in Health A medical charity that has been working in Haiti for a long time, building local medical capacity. Run by MD Paul Farmer, a noted writer on Haiti, it has a large network of Haitian doctors and nurses well-placed to offer immediate and long- term medical assistance.
The Lambi Fund A smaller but highly regarded development charity. It offers assistance to communities outside Port- au-Prince (areas also hit by the effects of the quake) to help arrest the decline of the agricultural sector which has driven hundreds of thousands of young people from the countryside to search for a livelihood in the capital’s now-stricken shanty-towns.
Yele A development NGO working mainly in education and community projects, but with extensive experience in food distribution and emergency relief. Yele was set up by the musician Wyclef Jean, who is also a Goodwill Ambassador for Haiti (celeb watchers will be amused that a few years ago he got Brad and Angelina to visit the notorious Cite Soleil shanty at a time when the heavily armed Brazilian peacekeepers were too scared to go there). It’s close ties to communities in some of the poorest and worst affected areas will be invaluable in the coming weeks and months.
Right now, with logistic problems on the ground, it might be a challenge getting volunteers to Haiti. The best way to help is to donate, the organizations need as much funds as possible to provide supplies, medical support and food. The destruction is so substantial that it might take a few years for Haiti to slowly get back on its feet.
In the meantime, we can continue to do our part and pray for the wellbeing of the country, and hope that the sun will shine in Haiti again.