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.
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:
- Please be patient. Volunteer managers are likely overwhelmed by the outpouring of goodwill and may be unprepared to receive the numbers of people stepping forward to help out. It will take a long time for Haiti to dig out from this disaster, and the long-term volunteering needs will become more apparent as the months (and years) pass. We recommend that you continue to check Idealist.org over the coming weeks and months for these kinds of opportunities. You can search for volunteer opportunities on the site by clicking on Find Volunteer Opportunities.
- International Medical Corps Worldwide is accepting applications from doctors and nurses.
- The American Medical Association is accepting applications from doctors who are willing to volunteer in Haiti.
- [UPDATE] As far as we know, Partners in Health and Doctors Without Borders are faced with long waiting lists of physicians who want to travel to Haiti. They ask that you please consider a monetary donation for now instead. PIH is apparently specifically looking for trauma doctors and orthopedic surgeons. If you fit the bill, email PIH at volunteer [at] pih.org.
- Volunteers with “needed skills” can also register for possible volunteer positions at the Center for International Disaster Information’s registration page. You can also let the CIDI know about bulk emergency supplies you or your organization have for donation.
- Hands On Disaster Response is taking information about potential volunteers, with the aim of mobilizing throughout the coming months to fill in the gaps left by local government and NGO responders.
- If you are an Returned Peace Corps Volunteer willing to volunteer in Haiti, please copy and paste this questionnaire (not an application) into an email to pcresponse [at] peacecorps.gov. Looks like Peace Corps Response is in need of folks who speak Haitian Creole.
- Check out the website Haiti Volunteer to see organizations that are requesting volunteers, to search for volunteers, or to post your skills.
- Apparently, the Red Cross is looking for Haitian Creole speakers to staff a phone bank. Call Mr. Wilfrid at
- If you’re a breastfeeding mom, consider donating breastmilk to medically fragile, separated and orphaned infants in Haiti.