Helping Haiti

The world is abuzz with the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti. It’s hard for someone like me to really comprehend the scope of the tragedy of many of the stories coming from devastation. Most of us are not in a position to ourselves go and help out, but there are a number of worthy organizations participating in the rescue and recovery to which you can donate. They include:

(this list is hardly comprehensive; there are plenty of other legitimate options. You can find others, and research their reputation and integrity through CharityNavigator or NetworkForGood.)

But as important as this disaster relief work is, hopefully we will do more. I hope we can take this opportunity to consider what allows this sort of catastrophe to occur—not the earthquake, of course, but the social conditions which allow the natural disaster to wreak such devastation. We as individuals can engage long term with the non-profit organizations which are working to foster long-term and sustainable changes to those conditions. And we can participate as citizens to encourage our government to adopt a foreign policy agenda more conducive to such change. Bill Quigley, Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans, has suggested ten suggestions.

One. Allow all Haitians in the US to work. The number one source of money for poor people in Haiti is the money sent from family and workers in the US back home. Haitians will continue to help themselves if given a chance. Haitians in the US will continue to help when the world community moves on to other problems.

Two. Do not allow US military in Haiti to point their guns at Haitians. Hungry Haitians are not the enemy. Decisions have already been made which will militarize the humanitarian relief – but do not allow the victims to be cast as criminals. Do not demonize the people.

Three. Give Haiti grants as help, not loans. Haiti does not need any more debt. Make sure that the relief given helps Haiti rebuild its public sector so the country can provide its own citizens with basic public services.

Four. Prioritize humanitarian aid to help women, children and the elderly. They are always moved to the back of the line. If they are moved to the back of the line, start at the back.

Five. President Obama can enact Temporary Protected Status for Haitians with the stroke of a pen. Do it. The US has already done it for El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Sudan and Somalia. President Obama should do it on Martin Luther King Day.

Six. Respect Human Rights from Day One. The UN has enacted Guiding Principles for Internally Displaced People. Make them required reading for every official and non-governmental person and organization. Non governmental organizations like charities and international aid groups are extremely powerful in Haiti – they too must respect the human dignity and human rights of all people.

Seven. Apologize to the Haitian people everywhere for Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh.

Eight. Release all Haitians in US jails who are not accused of any crimes. Thirty thousand people are facing deportations. No one will be deported to Haiti for years to come. Release them on Martin Luther King day.

Nine. Require that all the non-governmental organizations which raise money in the US be transparent about what they raise, where the money goes, and insist that they be legally accountable to the people of Haiti.

Ten. Treat all Haitians as we ourselves would want to be treated (Bill Quigley, “Ten Things the US Can and Should Do for Haiti,”, 01-14-2010).

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8 Responses to “Helping Haiti”

  1. Thom Says:

    Two notes. First, if any of your readers have time to donate, I would suggest (in addition to the great charities above) Hands On Disaster Relief ( They are, sadly, too small to be rated by CharityNavigator (I know, I just tried to request a rating), but all their documentation is on their webpage. They aren’t in Haiti, yet, as their a rebuilding organization, rather than a rescue operation, but they’ll have lots of work to do over the next few years.

    Second, as something of a contrarian, I’m not sure what to make of Quigley’s point number two. The reason the military has such a large role in the U.S. rescue efforts is because Haiti has a recent history of internal armed conflict. There are a lot of armed groups and individuals in Haiti, and so some amount of protection is necessary to both ensure that rescue and relief workers are safe and that resources get where they need to go, rather than being commandeered by whoever has the most guns. I’ll admit that I’m disconnected from the 24-hour news cycle, but I haven’t yet heard any allegations of abuse by military personnel, so I’m inclined to believe that we are working to do exactly that (though I have heard of medical teams abandoning field hospitals because they’re worried about their safety). Also, the military is probably the U.S. organization best equipped to move quickly with heavy engineering resources, such as those needed to rebuild the airport and seaports. All of which is to say that I very much want the U.S. military to point their guns at armed groups, should any appear, and not to point them at anyone until such groups appear. And the evidence so far suggests that is exactly what is happening.

    • Thom Says:

      By “time to donate” I didn’t mean “sufficient time to click on a website and donate,” but rather, “sufficient schedule and financial flexibility to donate their time.” Just to be clear.

  2. Christian Says:

    No one needs more debt. To what extent should we place ourselves in debt, nationally and personally, to rescue strangers from this crisis?

  3. Thom Says:

    Posting my own counter-argument, regarding Haiti’s reputation for armed conflict:

  4. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Thom, I can appreciate what you’re saying. Given the potential for anarchy and violence in such circumstances, and Haiti’s less than stellar history in that regard, it seem logical that someone needs to take the means to restore order. On the other hand,, given our own nation’s record when it comes to military intervention in smaller nations, I can certainly respect Quigley’s concern. It’s something about which we should be very cautious.

  5. Ben Says:

    Christian – if you’re an American, you can certainly better afford a little more debt than Haiti can.

  6. sospeter irumbi Says:

    my name is sospeter irumbi,am a Kenyan youth 20 years of age,i have a heart to help the needy in the society.i have come up with a television show that will be mainly based on saving a life.if you would need to hear much about this show u can contact mi.i have also read through your blog and all through ii have liked what you have been saying,i pray that God may bless you abundantly…..

  7. Awesome blog, I recommend everyone read it Says:

    Awesome blog, I recommend everyone read it…

    […]Helping Haiti « A Liberal Mormon[…]…

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