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How to help out Haiti


Google has posted a page with info on some ways to support disaster relief in Haiti, including a couple of very simple/easy ways to donate money.

(There are a bunch of other sites that have posted lists of organizations to donate to as well, but some of those sites seem to be posting any organization they hear about. Be wary of donating money to organizations that haven't been vetted or vouched for by someone you trust; there are presumably a lot of scams out there, trying to capitalize on people's desire to help.)

Janet L points out that not all of the hospitals listed on that Google page are operational. She notes that Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, about forty miles from Port-au-Prince, is operational and is helping patients brought in from Port-au-Prince. (I also heard this hospital mentioned on NPR, I think.)

Someone (sorry, I forget who) linked to an interesting page of "agencies responding to the crisis and accepting donations." I'm unfamiliar with most of the agencies listed there, but the ones I know about do good work. Various friends have also pointed to various religious aid organizations that they support, some of which are listed on that page.

I heard Bill Clinton on NPR earlier saying that the most important need right now is money for water, food, and medical supplies.

A couple of other people on the radio also made the point that although certainly a great deal of aid is needed right now, it'll also be important (as always with big disasters) to provide sustained aid in the future, once this immediate crisis slips out of the headlines.

Interesting article today said that the Red Cross had raised $1.2 million in text-message donations, but added:

It typically takes about 90 days from the time someone makes a donation until the charity receives the money, [...] although the company [that processes the donations] is working with wireless carriers to reduce that delay.

So if you want to be sure your donations will be effective immediately, might be best to make them by credit card rather than by texting. But again, money will still be needed three months from now, so it's certainly not a waste to do the texting approach, and that's probably the simplest way to donate. (And I'm guessing that everyone involved will work to shorten that 90-day lead time for the current situation anyway.)


Do NOT donate to the Red Cross. The American Red Cross lines its coffers with donations from disasters like these, and very little of what you give will go to Haiti.

While it's important to give your money intelligently, I wouldn't rely on random internet comments to determine which charities to trust. One potentially useful source of information is the American Institute of Philanthropy (AKA charitywatch.org); they have a page listing highly-rated charities that are helping in Haiti.

Debbie: I have mixed feelings about the American Red Cross.

They do a lot of good work; for example, Kam has volunteered with them, teaching disaster-recovery classes in the Bay Area.

As you note, in the past they've been criticized for taking donations during disasters and then using those donations for general funds. My understanding was that they took so much heat for doing that in a couple of previous major disasters that they're now more willing to earmark funds for a particular situation. But I have no particular evidence of that, and I'm willing to be educated if you know more about it.

According to a Red Cross press release from yesterday:

"The Red Cross is contributing an initial $1 million from the International Response Fund to support the relief operation, and has opened its warehouse in Panama to provide tarps, mosquito nets and cooking sets for approximately 5,000 families."


"The public can also help by texting “Haiti” to 90999 to send a $10 donation to the Red Cross, through an effort backed by the U.S. State Department. Funds will go to support American Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti."


"The American Red Cross already had fifteen staff in Haiti providing ongoing HIV/AIDS prevention and disaster preparedness programs. All are reported to be safe and responding to the disaster."

I mention that last because several sources over the past few days have suggested that it's a good idea to focus on supporting organizations that already had a presence in Haiti, with the implication (as I understood it) that such organizations are more likely to have a useful understanding of local situations and people and culture and politics and such.

Anyway, none of this outright contradicts what you said; I'm just saying that as far as I can tell, the American Red Cross is not just sitting around collecting money.

Jacob: I'm not clear on who you're criticizing as "random Internet comments." Me? That interaction.org page? Debbie? I sort of feel like you're arguing against a position that nobody's taking.

Then again, while I agree that nobody should be giving money based on what some random-stranger Internet commenter says, I think that recommendations from friends are quite valuable. When a friend of mine says "I'm giving money via this relief organization that I've been donating to for ten years; they do great work" (or, alternatively, "You shouldn't give money to organization x because they'll misuse it"), that means much more to me than either (a) a list put together by an organization like AIP or Google, or (b) a random stranger saying "D00DZ, U SHD GIV ME MUNNY SO'Z I CAN HELP!"

Sorry, yes, I was intending to characterize what Debbie said as a "random internet comment" and provide some balance; her comment, to me, had the feel of a drive-by. If you know Debbie, in fact, than I certainly apologize, though I do think comments like hers without citations are more inflammatory than helpful. For any given organization, there will always be someone, and for a large enough organization even someone you know, who has had a bad experience with that organization. I'd prefer to rely on more objective viewpoints like charitywatch.org, though I imagine they have their own axes to grind. Anyway, my apologies for being unclear and for any offense.

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