The Long Road to Recovery – and How You Can Help

From Flickr user simminch via Creative Commons

Originally posted on Idealist.org‘s homepage blog.

When a major disaster happens in the world, it’s common, and frankly humanity-affirming, for global citizens to want to help. However, when the disaster in question is as devastating as last week’s earthquake in Haiti, it is often the case that the primary way folks are encouraged to get involved is to raise funds, raise voices, and raise awareness. And while fundraising, advocacy, and public awareness are critically important activities to participate in, they can sometimes be frustrating substitutes for those who are seeking to lend a hand in a more direct and tangible way by volunteering.

Yet for those seeking to contribute their skills, time, and energy on the ground in a disaster response situation, the advice Continue reading

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Points of Light’s Michelle Nunn: MLK Day, Haiti Relief Efforts, and Getting Hands On in Your Community

Today’s guest on The New Service podcast is Michelle Nunn, CEO of the Points of Light Institute and Co-Founder of the HandsOn Network.

Points of Light Institute inspires, equips and mobilizes people to take action that changes the world. In 2007, the Points of Light Institute grew out of the merger between the Points of Light Foundation and the Hands On Network, creating the largest volunteer management and civic engagement organization in the nation. HandsOn Network includes more than 250 HandsOn Action Centers around the United States and ten other countries.

Idealist’s Amy Potthast chats with Michelle Nunn the Friday before MLK Day about the first-ever national MLK Day Virtual Town Hall Meeting, how people throughout the United States can take action in their own communities through Hands On Action Centers, how people can respond to the Haiti earthquake of January 12th, and the upcoming National Conference on Volunteering and Service to take place in New York this summer.

Direct download: Points_of_Lights_Michelle_Nunn.mp3

Can AmeriCorps Members Raise Funds for Haiti?

AmeriCorps State and National members are typically limited in the amount of fund raising they are allowed to do during hours they count towards their 1700 hours.(AmeriCorps VISTA members are not restricted and often hold grant writing and other development positions.)

Today, Nicola Goren, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, issued a statement indicating that national service members may be permitted to take part in fundraising for the Haiti earthquake relief effort “within certain limits” and “as supplemental to the core program activity:”

We have been asked whether it is permissible for national service programs to participate in fundraising and other community outreach efforts in support of Haiti earthquake relief.  Within certain limits to be discussed with Corporation program officers, it is generally permissible for national service participants to support this activity as supplemental to the core program activity.  We are putting together more detailed answers to frequently-asked questions for programs considering ways to contribute to the relief effort, to be posted and updated as needed.  Please forward any questions you have to your program officer so that we can provide specific guidance.

I’ll update this post when more details are available.

Are you a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Hoping to Help Out in Haiti?

UPDATE 1/19/10: Peace Corps Response needs Returned Peace Corps Volunteers [only] who are Kreyol speakers to leave for Haiti within 24-48 hours. Contact pcresponse [at] peacecorps.gov.

Peace Corps has created a questionnaire (not an application) to gauge the current level of interest among Returned Peace Corps Volunteers [only] to assist Haiti via Peace Corps Response (formerly Crisis Corps).

If you are a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer willing and able to volunteer in Haiti, please copy and paste these questions, and fill out your responses, in an email to: pcresponse [at] peacecorps.gov.

Peace Corps Response is the agency’s program that mobilizes former Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in short-term, high-impact volunteer roles. Follow more news about Peace Corps and the Haiti Earthquake on Peace Corps Polyglot, the blog of the National Peace Corps Association, and on the Haiti Disaster Response discussion group for RPCVs.

Peace Corps Response — Haiti Response Questionnaire

Thank you for your interest in assisting Haiti during this time of emergency. To help us gauge the current level of interest among former Peace Corps Volunteers, please fill out this questionnaire. This is NOT an application. Please keep your answers brief (no more than 3 sentences). Please email your completed questionnaire to pcresponse@peacecorps.gov. [NOTE: please only use this form if you are a former Peace Corps Volunteer.]

Name: ______________________________

Country of Service (when you were a Peace Corps Volunteer): ________________________

Telephone: ____________________ Email Address: _______________

1. How soon would you be available to depart on a response assignment?

2. How long would you be able to serve?

3. What languages do you speak and with what proficiency?

4. What technical skills do you possess that would be beneficial in a disaster situation?

5. What prior experience have you had with disaster relief or emergency situations?

6. Peace Corps Response will most likely be sending Volunteers in the next month or so. Given this, are you open to being referred to another government agency or nongovernmental organization for an immediate assignment in Haiti?

Helping Haiti: Things to Consider – Donations and Volunteering

Flag image via Victor Chapa on Flickr

This post has three sections: Donations; Volunteering Locally to Support Efforts in Haiti; and Volunteering in Haiti. Idealist staff Jeremy MacKechnie, Amy Potthast, Erin Barnhart, Eric Fichtl, Scott Stadum, and Julia Smith contributed. Originally posted on Idealist.org.

The outpouring of support for the victims of Tuesday’s natural disaster in Haiti has been overwhelming. As we look for ways to help, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Donations

From news reports and our organizational contacts, it seems the logistics of sending aid and support to Haiti is compromised by electrical outages, gas shortages, and destroyed roads. Most organizations have sent small teams of staff and are assessing needs on-the-ground at this point. Supplies that have made it to the ports and airport are having a hard time getting in to affected areas due to the impassability of roads.

As our Director of Volunteer Initiatives, Erin Barnhart, wrote on YP Nation yesterday: While many are willing and able to volunteer today—ready to hop on a plane to Port-au-Prince and lend a hand however they are needed—the reality is there may not yet be appropriate ways for most people to pitch in, especially in the days immediately following a disaster of this magnitude.

Thus, the fastest and most efficient way to assist disaster victims at this time is to donate money to a reputable charity that is responding to the disaster. Many charities like the Red Cross/Red Crescent, Mercy Corps, and Oxfam specialize in providing relief in acute disaster areas, yet they face significant financial barriers to getting their staff, equipment, and supplies to the affected regions. Other organizations like Partners in Health, UNICEF, and the Grameen Foundation have a long history in Haiti and are positioned to make a huge impact in the aftermath of this week’s disaster. Find other organizations supporting Haiti relief efforts on CNN.com or at Network for Good. On a White House call today, participants were encouraged to donate to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

Your donation, no matter how small, helps put experienced disaster responders on the ground, and gives them the tools they need to help victims recover. Be sure that you are taking precautions to donate to a reputable organization. You may want to review this article on internet scams that have arisen surrounding the tragedy in Haiti.

Note that organizations are asking for financial donations—not supplies—because they prefer to purchase exactly what they need from secure supply chains, using delivery means that can ensure the safety of the shipment. Where possible, purchasing materials available locally is also a boon to the local economy in the wake of a natural disaster. Read more about why cash donations are preferred.

Some organizations have organized text messaging donation drives: you can text “Haiti” to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross; text “Yele” to 501501 to donate $5 to Yele; or text “HAITI” to 25383 to donate $5 to the International Rescue Committee. Organizations should send you a text to confirm that you want to donate, and if you accept, the amount will appear on your next cell phone bill – which you can use as your receipt for tax purposes. These have been very popular and successful; however, it is worth considering that the money may take up to 90 days to reach the people and efforts on the ground, as there are processed through the cell phone company and possibly other parties. Read more here.

ReCellular is accepting old cell phone donations to send to emergency response teams in Haiti.

Volunteering Locally to Support Efforts in Haiti

If you are not in a financial position to donate, you can still help the relief effort in a variety of ways, often right in your own community. Most organizations don’t want to receive supplies such as clothing, but you can post a donation banner for an organization you support on your blog or website, volunteer at the local office of a charity that has sent staff to the affected area, or organize initiatives in your community that raise awareness about, and funding for, the relief effort.

Such efforts shouldn’t be downplayed: raising money, spreading awareness, or lobbying community leaders to support the relief effort can all generate tangible results for disaster victims. Check out our section on DIY volunteering for tips on how to create your own volunteer project, or visit Idealist in NYC for a list of drives and events being organized in New York City.

Also check out Britt Bravo’s post on five ways to volunteer for Haiti from within the States.

Volunteering in Haiti

If you are mainly interested in volunteering on the ground in Haiti right now:

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Launch Haiti Relief Discussion Group

Today, the National Peace Corps Association established a discussion group on its social networking site Connected Peace Corps for the Peace Corps Community to ask questions and learn more about disaster relief efforts in the wake of Tuesday’s devastating earthquake near Port au Prince, Haiti.

Peace Corps Volunteers have been stationed in Haiti over the years, but none are currently serving there according to Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams. (Read more about Peace Corps’s history in Haiti — the program seems to have been suspended in 2005.)

The number of members on the Haiti Disaster Relief discussion group has climbed throughout the day and contributors to the chat are sharing endorsements of organizations to support and clearing up rumors circulating on other social media sites. Others are sharing memories of their own experiences in Haiti, or its neighbor the Dominican Republic, or are sharing insights based on natural disasters they’ve been survivors of.

Currently Peace Corps Response (formerly Crisis Corps), the agency’s program that mobilizes former Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in short-term, high-impact volunteer roles, doesn’t show any listings for Haiti – but it’s still early. This Facebook group has been started to get feedback and ideas to Peace Corps and encourage Peace Corps Response to get a group together to serve in Port au Prince.

Incidentally, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Mark Marek works for the Red Cross of Haiti. Here he is on PBS’s Newshour and on NPR.