After a long history of hardships, Haitians are now enduring a long and disastrous aftermath from last month’s most severe natural disaster in current history. The death toll is estimated at over a quarter million, the damages exceeding those of the Asian tsunami in 2004, and the costs are billions more than that of Katrina. Being one of the poorest Third World countries, Haiti is no stranger to suffering, with poverty, disease, debt, and a long list of political problems with dictatorship having existed for decades.
With their previous beloved leader, Aristide, sent into exile and the current president, RenÃ© PrÃ©val, walking around in a daze, the Haitian people are short-handed on powerful leaders, and are relying on short form aid instead. Relief efforts for the massive destruction and displacement of Haitians are endless, and the partnering of big brand relief organizations with social media sites could make the overwhelming process more efficient. But for real-time news about the relief progress and inside perspectives from locals in Haiti, social media networks are revolutionizing the way we stay informed. By following local publishers, donors are empowered to make more informative decisions on how to help.
Although the Red Cross has the most branding power and continues to receive millions more in donations than any other agency, there are many more organizations with progressive, innovative approaches that hold a certain expertise. Questioning the legitimacy of an organization with an unknown name is only logical; there are predators who are using this ravaged country as an excuse to wring cash out of well intentioned donors. The less informed the donor, the more likely their funds will go to familiar agencies like Red Cross and UNICEF. There have been debates of pooling U.S. disaster funds to spread the help to other organizations that are more specialized, yet it doesn’t seem like a timely solution to what needs immediate attention.
There are easy ways to donate and some sponsors are doing it for you. If you become a follower of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund by March 2nd, Rudyâ€™s BBQ will automatically donate fifty cents to CBHF. (You can participate via the CBHF Twitter account). You can also sport your support with a Fashion for Haiti t-shirt (@fashionforhaiti on Twitter). New York community group To Haiti With Love, is asking artists to create and donate. Art will then be auctioned off via their website, tohaitiwithlove.co.uk. Also, if you are an eBay shopper, you can automatically donate during your checkout.
To read what people on the ground in Haiti are saying and to learn about other ways you can help and become a part of the plan, check out the publishers and citizen journalists below on Twitter: