Sunday, January 17, 2010

Help for Haiti

Help for Haiti: Learn What You Can Do

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who have lived through a natural disaster and those who have been lucky.

I'm looking around for a piece of wood; I need to knock on it loudly, because I have been very lucky, natural disaster-wise (unless, of course, you count children. Can we count children as natural disasters?)

Oh, our basement has flooded a couple of times, but all that really did was make us clean up and do a little culling. (I'm thinking maybe we should schedule one periodically.)

A tornado touched down in our town sometime in the '90s. I don't think anyone was hurt, but the astounding force of nature could be seen in the felled trees and overturned cars just a few blocks from my house. You don't forget seeing the bared roots of a giant elm ripped from the earth, vulnerable and exposed against now clear skies. But we were spared.

A much more devastating storm ripped through The Villages, FL in February 2007, shortly after my parents moved into their new home. It was eerie to tour the area, even two months later when we visited. Their block was untouched, but houses just a block or two away were torn open — roofs and outside walls completely gone — revealing pots and pans left untouched in the kitchens inside. Again, we were lucky.

We get our fair share of crappy weather here in Chicagoland ("that frozen wasteland", my brother calls it). Sometimes we get too much rain, or snow, or cold. Our winters can be brutal, our springs all but nonexistent, our summers often lacking … but our autumns will break your heart with their glory and, overall, we're pretty lucky. Natural disasters don't seem to like our climate well enough to visit. (Time to knock on wood again.)

On August 28, 2005, we watched, helpless, the broadcasts of Hurricane Katrina as it approached, landed and virtually destroyed New Orleans. Then we watched and worried and complained that not enough was being done fast enough to help the survivors. It's a shameful chapter in American history, when we as a nation failed some of our most vulnerable citizens right here at home.

To be sure, many people offered help — funds, goods and elbow grease flowed and continue to flow into the region — but not enough, and not fast enough. More than four years later, the areas affected by Katrina are still far from full recovery.

According to the Brookings Institution: "… the region still faces major challenges due to blight, unaffordable housing, and vulnerable flood protection. New federal leadership must commit and sustain its partnership with state and local leaders … to help greater New Orleans move past 'disaster recovery' and boldly build a more prosperous future."

And now Haiti has suffered an earthquake of devastating proportions. Hurricane Katrina resulted in 1,836 deaths, a tremendous human toll. Early reports from Haiti mention 45,000-50,000 deaths, with the final toll possibly reaching as high as 200,000. The devastation is staggering for this poor nation where 55% of its people were living below the poverty line of $1 (US) a day before the earthquake.

"It is a denial of justice not to 
stretch out a helping hand to the fallen; 
that is the common right of humanity." 
Seneca (the Younger) , 3[ish] BC – 65 AD

Have we learned anything since Katrina? I have hopes that we have. As of January 15, more than $10M had been raised through text donations alone. The blogosphere is bursting with posts about the disaster and ways to help and the American Red Cross is reporting such tremendous response that it is has necessitated a 10-12 hour lag time in donation processing (but don't let that stop you).

Got a minute, few bucks and a cell phone? Here's a list of text-based donation sites (the donations will be charged to your cell phone bill):
Donate easily online to:
    At this point, the American Red Cross reports that it is meeting any requests for blood due to this tragedy through current supplies" and does not anticipate the need for a special donor appeal. While goods and services may be needed further into recovery, right now the best way to help is to donate cash to the organization of your choice. Shelterbox is an interesting group that provides immediate, practical help for victims of natural disasters:

    Please beware that disasters spawn fraud and the Internet is rife with scams in the name of helping Haiti. Protect yourself by donating to well-known organizations; click on the image at the top of this post or check out sites like this one for vetted agencies.

    Though most of my posts are snark-ridden, allegedly humorous observations of everyday life (and I don't apologize for the snark), you'll forgive me if this one is on the earnest side. There was nothing everyday about the disaster in Haiti. Our collective attention span seems to have dwindled to the length of a (much shorter) blog post, so I think a little repetition is not amiss in service to such a worthy cause. And if Bill Clinton and George W. Bush can work together to help Haiti (I kid you not — snark intended), then so can we. Your regularly scheduled snark will return next time. Feel free to leave your comments or suggestions for other places to donate help for Haiti by clicking here.

    (P.S. The deadline for the 2KoP Guest Post Writing Contest  is February 1. I know you are just polishing up your entries, but I thought I'd post this little reminder. Pardon the plug.)


    DarryleP said...

    Lucky you. I've been thru a couple hurricanes, two earthquakes, and a mudslide--all of which damaged the homes I lived in---but all the people inside our homes survived with no injuries. So when I think about Katrina and Haiti, I'm knocking wood just like you.

    Victoria said...

    I would say, there are two kinds of people, those who blog about natural disasters and how to help and those who still don't know what to say.

    You did a lovely job with the former. I, falling into the latter, haven't found the words. I'm glad there are other means of activity.