I want to pause in the series on researching to focus on more important matters: Haiti. As I write this, the death toll is not yet known, and like the horrible tsunami catastrophe of 2005, we may never truly know. What we do know is that millions — that’s millions — of Haitians are injured or dying, and all Haitians, both in their homeland and living abroad, are suffering terrible, unspeakable grief.
There have been a lot of calls for prayer in the past day or so, and I’m among those people who believe that prayer, or meditation, or any other form of mental or spiritual offering can be hugely beneficial in tragedy, not only to those on whose behalf we pray but also for ourselves as well. It’s why I’m here now: I view writing as a kind of prayer, like a message in the Wailing Wall or a sutra on a prayer flag or calligraphy from the Qur’an, and I write this because I want to send my hope and compassion out into the world, on the off chance that it can help someone who is suffering, if only to know there’s someone like me who cares.
But I also believe that words alone are not going to help the people of Haiti, and I agree with all those people who suggest that action is as important as prayers — maybe, for the time being, action is more important.
I know things are hard for a lot of people the world over. Just today, as I browsed messages and status reports from friends and family, I found as many people despairing over their own hardships as I found despairing for Haiti. I have friends who have lost their jobs, or who have been seeking jobs for months to no avail; I have friends who wake each morning wondering how they’re going to feed their children. I have friends who are suffering from terrible illness, or whose family members or spouses are dying of cancer. I have friends who are fighting day after day just to retain (or in some cases earn for the first time) their basic human rights.
But I also know that there are also plenty of us who can afford to help. It doesn’t take much. When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit several years ago, I had students approach me asking to be excused from class for a week. They wanted to head south, down to the Gulf Coast. I said, “You have family down there?” They said, “No, I’m joining a group of volunteers helping to clean up.” I excused them from class. A couple of years later, up in Wisconsin, another group of students asked the same thing — they were driving down to build houses with Habitat for Humanity. These actions cost time, but they rarely cost money, and they have enormous impact.
I don’t yet know what sorts of actions are available to help Haitians; the Haitians themselves do not yet fully understand the terrible scope of this tragedy or what their needs will be, and the governments of the world, including my own, are scrambling to help but don’t yet know how. I hope by the end of today we can know, at least to some degree, and the help can begin. But in the meantime, I do know that one thing needed desperately is money to fund the efforts of those brave volunteers waiting to rush to Haiti’s aid. So if you can afford to, please consider donating. Some places are willing to accept anything you can spare, even if it’s only a dollar.
To that end, here is a short list of charities to consider, compiled by myself, some friends on Facebook, and one of my favorite blogs, Cake Wrecks:
- Charity Navigator (this is a kind of clearing house for reliable, reputable charities; it weeds out the scams and helps you find the right charity for your giving preferences)
- International Red Cross Red Crescent (this is the main site for the joint operations of Red Cross and Red Crescent; you can donate directly here, or you can use their search tool to find a Red Cross or Red Crescent office in your home country)
- Doctors Without Borders (they were already operating three hospitals in Haiti before the earthquake, but all three hospitals are destroyed and the medical staff are now operating out of tents and temporary shelters — they desperately need your help, and every dollar counts)
- Oxfam (another hugely important coallition of international aid organizations)
- Heifer International (already an addition! Heifer seeks to fight hunger and poverty, and has decided to step in as a first responder in the Haiti crisis. Thanks to my friend Beth Davidson for pointing this one out.)
- Episcopal Relief and Development (and another addition, this one from my friend Diana Pearson, who says this organization “is already on the ground there and puts 92 cents on the dollar into relief work.”)
If you know of any more than I can add to this list, or of any non-monetary ways in which we can help, please tell me — I will [continue to] update and repost the list as long as it’s necessary.