Haiti: Making an Impact With Your Donation

It is hard to miss the images and tales of destruction coming out of Haiti right now. It is even harder to imagine what it must be like to be there on the ground. As more of the details of Tuesday’s earthquake continue to emerge, I am reminded of my experiences in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina when our White House office quickly became inundated with calls for help from survivors, from organizations trying to coordinate their actions and from average citizens who wanted to do something….anything to help alleviate the suffering. The good news is that the U.S. and the world are quickly mobilizing to help our Haitian neighbors.  

As we continue to learn more about the dire needs of Haitians displaced by this earthquake, many donors feel an urgency to help but are unsure where to direct their donations to.

Latest Update on Haiti:

This afternoon, I was on a conference call with officials from the White House, US Department of State, US Chamber of Commerce, Clinton Foundation and major NGOs such as World Vision and CHF International discussing the current situation in Haiti. In the short-term there is an immediate need for water, food, shelter and medical assistance. In the longer term, there will be an even much greater need to support the recovery building efforts of a nation plagued by poverty as well as by economic and political instability.

Logistics are creating a major challenge in Haiti.  Of course, the main priority is to get search and rescue teams on the grounds.  A major set-back occurred today at the airport in Port-au-Prince when the tower collapsed.  US Military was fortunately able to erect a temporary tower and are currently managing air operations. Unfortunately, due to the limited capacity of the airport, many flights with disaster relief supplies are being held up as personnel/items urgent to the search and rescue process are being flown in. The US Coast Guard is reporting the main port in Port-au-Prince is unusable as the piers and cranes have collapsed into the sea. Right now NGOs are having to use alternative ports and ship supplies overland. Three warships from the US are expected to arrived on the 15th, 18th, and 22nd. For responders arriving in Haiti, there are no accommodations and communications are extremely limited.

What can donors do?

Given these unique logistical challenges, there are several points that you should consider as you develop your own philanthropic response.

  • To support immediate needs, donate to large disaster-relief organizations. Given the difficulties in getting supplies and personnel on the ground right now, many organizations are currently having to base their operations out-of-country in places like the Dominican Republic, Panama and other surrounding nations.  Given the scenario, major charities (such as Save the Children, American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and CHF International) are much more capable of translating donations into services on the ground in the shortest amount of time. In fact, many of these organizations have been running operations in Haiti for years and have hundreds of personnel already in place.
  • Look for organizations with local partners, resources and data. Often the perceived need from the outside is not the actual need on the inside. Many times money and time are wasted providing items or solutions that are not conducive politically, economically or culturally by well meaning persons and organizations wanting to help.
  • When making a contribution, designate your donation to the organization’s operations in Haiti. Remembering the lessons from 9/11 and Katrina, be sure to remember to designate that your donation be used for the nonprofit’s operations in Haiti. Most charities offer a check box when donating online which provide donors with this option. When writing a check, be sure to indicate the fund’s name or purpose of the donation in the memo line.  This will help ensure that your donation is utilized as you intended it to.
  •  Be wary of telemarketers and email solicitations to give. Unfortunately, this is an issue that has to be discussed. In the rush to give, all sorts of scams spring up to entice unsuspecting donors. Let common sense be your guide. Never divulge credit card information to someone soliciting over the phone or click on a donation link contained in an email. Instead, if you are trying to give to a well-known organization, go directly to the organization’s website and give through their online portal.
  • Support longer-term recovery efforts. Relief operations are critical right now and need to be funded. However, after the camera crews leave, the people will still need housing, food, water, and healthcare. While there is an urgency to give now, consider also giving to organizations who will participate in longer-term recovery efforts.  Recovery efforts will need to focus on rebuilding the infrastructure of Haiti better than it has been, ultimately mitigating the losses when the next natural disaster strikes.

We will continue to provide updates to donors as we receive them from our charity partners. In the meantime, please feel free to call us at 888-575-GIVE or email us at info@operationkids.org with any questions that might arise.

-Christopher Lindsay

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One Response to “Haiti: Making an Impact With Your Donation”

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