Haiti: How to Help

Monday January 18, 2010 by Ali

Image credit: CBC.ca

The devastation in Haiti is top of mind for all of us, but what are we doing to help? As North Americans, we have the most disposable income and are hoarding the majority of the world's resources. As such, it really is up to us to dig deep in these times of need and do what we can to help.

There are many charitable organizations we can donate to now, who are on the ground in Haiti in desperate need of our funds. The most common concern I hear from people when talking about making a cash donation is, "how do I know if my money is being used properly?" The best way to know your funds are going where you intended, is to choose a charity you trust. Here is a list of a few we trust and are donating to ourselves:

World Vision - donate a minimum of $10 or choose a package

The Red Cross - donate online or the US is doing a massive texting campaign where you donate $10 by sending the text “Haiti” to 90999.

MCC - the Mennonite Central Committee is a highly regarded non-profit that has relief workers on the ground in Haiti and other devastated parts of the world.

Feed The Children - donate as little as $17.50 to help bring supplies and food to children in need.

Doctors without Borders/Medecines Sans Frontieres - another global organization that provides huge relief support.

There are so many organizations. If none of these interest you, CBC has a great list of charities taking online donations here.

It isn't just Haiti that needs our help. When over 100,000 lose their lives in a matter of days, it's easy for the entire world to sit up and take notice because there is extensive media coverage. Unfortunately those suffering from AIDS in Africa eclipse that death toll every three months and there is no end in sight. Did you know that?

I know many of us struggle with debt, student loans and just making the rent each month. It's hard to imagine giving funds away when sometimes there isn't enough to pay our own bills. But wouldn't it be worth it to sacrifice just a little bit once a month or a few times a year to help with these situations that are beyond any horror we will likely ever experience in our entire lives?

I've been thinking about this a lot, as I recently found myself shopping for a new cocktail dress for an upcoming event. If you're curious, it's this one from BCBG. I noticed all of the shoe stores were having sales and ended up buying a pair of shoes on impulse. As I trudged through the mall filled with shoppers, I started to feel frustrated that I was there and that so many people were there. Sure, it's a sign of a strong economy, but if every person in the mall donated what they would have spent on that impulse purchase, what kind of a difference would it make? I did need a dress for that event I'm hosting, but my $100 impulse shoes that I don't even have closet space for would go so much further in Haiti or Africa. Would I be willing to impulsively donate that $100 to charity above and beyond my other donations? I decided that the answer had to be "yes" and so I made a matching donation to World Vision. And I also made a decision. For the next month, I will swap impulse purchases for charitable donations. Or, if I buy something I don't need, I'll match the amount I spent in a donation. This will be in addition to what I already donate each month.

So my challenge to you is, will you do it with me? For the next month, add up whatever you are spending on things you don't actually need and either donate that amount to charity instead, or match it. It's going to hurt, but I think it will be worth it. Are you in?

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