Skepticism

Haiti: What you can do to help

If you’re like me, you’ve been watching, reading or listening to the news of death and destruction after the earthquake in Haiti, wondering how best to help, possibly infuriated by claims that us non religious folk are less likely to donate or volunteer in such efforts. Some research yielded the following.

Volunteer:

As of a few hours ago, it was reported that Jet Blue and American Airlines were arranging to fly medical volunteers from New York to Haiti for free. I was unable to find further information about this, but there is a phone number circulating on Twitter: 212-697-9767.
Update: This has been confirmed to have been a false rumor.

Donate:

If you are not a doctor or nurse, the best way to help is to donate money to relief organizations that have a handle on the situation. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether an organization is really spending your money the way they claim they are, so I prefer to give to secular groups who don’t have ulterior motives beyond helping people in dire situations. Here is a list of secular organizations who appear to have relief efforts mobilized on the ground in Haiti:

Direct Relief International

Doctors without Borders

Operation USA

Humanist Charities

Partners in Health

Spread the word:

If you have a website or blog, post links to relief sites. Doctors without Borders has a handy little button you can put right on your page.

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21 Comments

  1. Hmm. Personally I think it’s better to donate to the charity with the best infrastructure, disaster relief experience and understanding of local culture (even if that includes religion – last I checked, Haiti wasn’t a secular place). If you have evidence that a particular religious-based charity is abusing its donations, then by all means name and shame them, but it’s fallacious to assume that a secular charity wouldn’t abuse its donations just because a religious one might.

    I recommend Oxfam, they have a lot of experience in Haiti and in disaster relief. I neither know nor care what their religious philosophy is, I only care what they are doing for victims (even that includes religious comfort if the victims require it. If I lost everything and everyone, I’d pray too).

    https://www.oxfam.org.uk/donate/haiti-earthquake/index.php

  2. I gave to the Canadian Red Cross – they purchase locally as much as possible. Probably regionally in this instance as it seems none of the needed supplies are available locally. Plus our government matches the donation, so my donation counts twice. I suspect much of what they buy ends up helping a lot of the groups already on the ground – a good thing.

    I wanted to give fast to a reputable organization – no time to research. But if there’s a great org on the ground in Haiti that can help, I’ll give again.

  3. @Tracy King:

    Hmm. Personally I think it’s better to donate to the charity with the best infrastructure, disaster relief experience and understanding of local culture (even if that includes religion – last I checked, Haiti wasn’t a secular place).

    The Red Cross probably qualifies on most of those points, though in a case like this I’m not sure if it makes more sense to donate to the American Red Cross or the International Red Cross. And the cross in their logo refers to the flag of Switzerland, where the organization was founded; the Red Cross itself is supposed to be secular.

    According to PZ Meyers, Partners in Health already had a presence in Haiti before this happened, so I would think they ought to be able to put monetary donations to good use.

  4. I’ve given to some of these organizations in the past, when I had a job. Right now I can’t afford anything as all is tight. Thanks for the list so when I do get a job (hopefully soon) I can donate to those organizations. Recovery will be going on for a very long time so I can contribute in the future.

  5. This also speaks to the importance of giving regularly to the charities you find worthwhile. Organizations like the Red Cross need to be prepared for disasters like this all the time. There is only so much they can do with last-minute windfalls. This is also why I got mad when people chided them for using “Katrina” funds for non-Katrina emergencies. I think we just have to trust these organizations to know their business better than we do.

  6. @JohnEA13: I think Daffy Pat is projecting again.

    All commercial air traffic is suspended into Haiti until further notice. All the resources and equipment is earmarked for aid flights. They are running out of ramp space for unloading and storage, as well as a shortage of jet fuel. Haiti’s infrastructure is iffy at the best of times, so moving the delivered supplies is difficult and slow as well. My guess is that the airfields in Santo Domingo are probably swamped, too.

    As I understand it, the US brought in a portable air traffic control tower from Puerto Rico to help sort out things. From my experience in airport operations, it has to be nightmarish there right now. Still, I wish I were able to use my experience to help them. I’ll just have to donate as much as I can.

    ShelterBox is strongly associated with Rotary International, btw.

  7. Several Haitian friends recommended the following website:

    http://www.yele.org/

    It does not appear to be affiliated with any religious organization.

    This is from the site:

    Yéle Haiti

    “…is a grassroots movement that builds global awareness for Haiti while helping to transform the country through programs in education, sports, the arts and environment. Yéle’s community service programs include food distribution and mobilizing emergency relief. Grammy-Award winning musician, humanitarian and Goodwill Ambassador to Haiti Wyclef Jean founded Yéle Haiti in 2005.”

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