Thursday, January 14, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti: How to Help

A survivor stands on the rubble of his collapsed home. (AP via the Kansas City Star)
Many ways to help the relief effort in Haiti have been started, and I would encourage everyone to take part in those efforts with a contribution, even a small one, to a reputable charity. Here is a list of three charities who handle money well, have networks in place in Haiti, and are already working now to help the people.

The American Red Cross has pledged $1 million and is prepared to take further action as local responders assess the situation. The American Red Cross has made available all of the relief supplies from its warehouse in Panama, which would provide for basic needs for approximately 5,000 families. In addition, it is deploying a disaster management specialist to Haiti, and has additional disaster specialists on standby if needed. “Our phones have been very busy from people wanting to donate,” Almitra Buzan, a spokeswoman for the Kansas City chapter of the Red Cross, told the Kansas City Star. She said people can donate using their cell phone by texting the word “Haiti” and sending it to 90999. That will trigger a $10 donation for Haiti response. People can also donate at or by calling 800-REDCROSS (800-733-2767). Checks can be sent locally to the chapter at 211 W. Armour Blvd., Kansas City MO 64111.

Heart to Heart International, based in Olathe KS, regularly sends humanitarian aid to Haiti and just this week shipped $2 million worth of medicines and other supplies to the country. The organization expects to send more aid in the coming days. “Haiti is a nation of tremendous need, even before the earthquake struck,” Jon D. North, the organization’s chief executive officer told The Star. “We’re planning to send medicines and supplies that address waterborne and airborne illnesses, as well as minor injuries.” People can donate financially to Heart to Heart online at or by phone at 913-764-5200. The organization is also asking groups or businesses to assemble care kits made up of personal hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, bandages, washcloths and hand towels. ( More on these below.) Blogger comment: Heart to Heart was founded by a Christian physician, Dr. Gary Morsch, after he saw the bad shape the Russian health care system was in after the fall of the Soviet Union. Heart to Heart is very well respected, among Forbes top 200 charities, and uses 98% of every dollar donated to help people with only 2% going to administration. Please read more at their website, address above, if you are not familiar with this wonderful organization.

The Salvation Army operates schools, clinics, a hospital, feeding programs, children’s homes and church-related activities in Haiti. The organization through a spokesman said it was committing $50,000 to the relief effort and was preparing for a greater financial commitment along with providing food, water and other emergency supplies. Amanda Waters, a spokeswoman for the Salvation Army in Kansas City, told the newspaper that people have been calling the local office in Kansas City wanting to help. She said trained volunteers from the Kansas City area may be asked to travel to Haiti in the coming months to assist in the relief effort, which could last for many months or even years. The organization is accepting donations for the relief effort at or by calling 800-SAL-ARMY (800-725-2769).

Money goes a long way in these types of situations, usually farther than material donations, especially at first when moving material is a logistical nightmare. There may well be needs for specific materials to be donated in the future, but what is needed now is funds to buy from neighboring countries and in bulk in distant countries the things that people and rescuers need now. However, the urge to do something more concrete then writing a check or putting a donation on your debit/credit card is very strong (and very human!). Heart to Heart International has a way for you and your church/office/team/troop to help more concretely. They have been doing for years, and find that these donations of items for personal hygiene kits are really helpful for people in the disaster zone. Here is a link directly to the pdf file that will give you directions on how to put these kits together, and where to send them. Heart to Heart will take it from there.

Of course, if you are a person of faith, continue in your prayers for the people of Haiti and the rescuers coming to their aid. Some say prayer is the least you can do. In reality it is the most you can do, and the first thing to do, and the last thing to do.

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