Long before the January 2010 earthquake that hit Haiti, this country- the poorest in the Western Hemisphere- was already on shaky economic footing. Several hurricanes wrecked havoc on Haiti’s frail population in recent years. The land, poorly able to sustain its people with severely limited natural resources, has been under great strain. Unemployment and illiteracy are high. Less than 20 percent of Haitians are employed. Pre-earthquake, Haiti was considered the “kidnap capital” of the world, with more 160 kidnappings a month, thousands of rapes and violent crimes reported. Anger, violence, prejudice and illiteracy are constant foes many peace loving Haitians must combat daily within their own country, in addition to scrabbling for sustenance.
And more than half, living amidst abject poverty have an income of less than a dollar a day.
I’d like you to soak that in. Put aside just for a brief moment, all the earthquake ravaged photos and news clips and ponder what life is like, on a day to day basis with no prospect in sight for work, a family to feed, and going to bed hungry nearly every single day. That was “normal” life for over half the Haitian population.
Imagine if a dollar represented total income for the day to feed, clothe and shelter your entire family. We, who toss our bucks at everything from the required to the ridiculous, have little perspective just how precious that money or bare essentials are to other people.
Now add in the equation an earthquake of catastrophic proportions. Surely devastating enough in a land of plenty, but in Haiti the aftershocks of widespread hunger, even fewer resources, scanty health care, and a record 1.5 million homeless represent an atrocity. Having watched nightmarish clips on YouTube and CNN, recording what one doctor called, “civil war medicine” as a Haitians leg was amputated outdoors without general anesthetic, I grieve for the people suffering in ways we can’t even fathom.
Long after CNN stops daily coverage, and we commence worrying about the Super Bowl or where to vacation over Spring Break, the Haitians will struggle forward poorly equipped to feed, shelter or clothe their families. The work in Haiti is long overdue and it is a global problem. Thankfully, many organizations and world leaders are striving to end this cycle of poverty, hunger and poor living conditions at last for these amazingly resilient people.
It pleases me to see long term plans for Haitian aid being forged. Although the destruction in Haiti is so significant and far reaching, it will take the work of many to bring not just relief, but also recovery to Haitian people.
From grassroots to corporate, giving assistance to Haiti needs to be plentiful and long term to establish recovery and reform. If you’ve been struggling with how to help, I’d like to offer some creative suggestions. Act on these or be inspired to begin your own aid for Haiti program.
Do you have limited personal cash to donate?
Get a group involved! What can your service organization, school or club do to help Haitians? Take a cue from Ball State University Women’s Rugby Club. Start a food and money drive. These otherwise aggressive girls, who are in a student-funded Rugby Club, have limited means but a big heart to help Haitians. According to BSU team spokesperson, Krista “Hopper” Hess, “With many of us being college students, we’re out on loans with not much cash. That’s why we’ve devised another plan. We’re gathering canned goods and money as well.” Her advice to students, “Perhaps instead of spending that $3-6 on going out one night a week, eat in and donate a couple bucks. If you have extra money on your meal card, start getting a bunch of cans”. Applying the same relentless instinct they use on field strategies, the girls have been investigating over 40 legitimate sources to donate these most effectively for Haitians. Send the girls a donation or be inspired and start your own grassroots Haitian help fund.
How to help if you have limited time?
One of the quickest ways to aid these folks is via text. Americans collectively send out more than 2.5 billion of these 160 character messages every DAY. Per person, that amounts to about 357 monthly. Surely we could send one out of those texts for helping others? So simple, even a 40 year old woman can do it. Just text the key words listed below, and charges are added to your cell phone bill. You won’t miss five or ten bucks will you?
The following organizations are accepting SMS donations in the US only:
- SMS text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts
- SMS text “YELE” to 501501 to Donate $5 to Yele Haiti’s Earthquake Relief efforts
- SMS text “GIVE10″ to 20222 to donate $10 to Direct Relief
How to incorporate helping into daily life?
Plastic loving card holders can swipe their credit card to help Haiti. Just use your rebates with Discover Card and Discover will match donations. Their cap is 1 million dollars and remains among the top offers from credit card issuers. However, before you donate with a card, check out Ask Mr. Credit Card’s blog for information regarding time frames and exemptions. In some cases, the interchange rates are only suspended for a limited initial period or apply to certain charities. Become informed, find a way and donate!
Keep this country’s proud and dignified people in your hearts and prayers.