Jan 13, 2010

Haiti On My Mind

Haiti Presidential Palace, Before and After.
I was supposed to go to Haiti for some charity work, however, I'm going to assume the trip has been canceled. I have extremely strong feelings of grief and mourning for the people of Haiti. I also have some acquaintances that are on their way for the rescue and humanitarian mission. I wish them the best, and I sincerely thank them for their selfless acts of kindness to strangers a world away.

Now before we all start throwing money at people who claim to be sending donations to Haiti... Here's my research results of reputable charities from the Better Business Bureau.

The Better Business Bureau offers the following advice to help Americans decide where to direct donations:

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity.

Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other Web sites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. The public can go to www.bbb.org to research charities and relief organizations to verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims.

Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting earthquake victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. They may use some of their other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.

Be cautious when giving online.

Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. In response to the tsunami disaster in 2004, there were concerns raised about many Web sites and new organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas.

Unless the charity already has staff in the effected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers to quickly provide assistance. See if the charity’s Web site clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups.

Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to ensure the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.

Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations.

In-kind drives for food and clothing—while well intentioned— may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need - unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

For more information on donating to charities go to www.bbb.org

The list below identifies national charities that are seeking to provide assistance in response to the earthquake in Haiti. This list only includes those charities that meet the BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s Standards for Charity Accountability. Click on each of the names to access a BBB charity report on the organization. Further information about other charities is available at http://www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/national/

Action Against Hunger

American Friends Service Committee
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
American Jewish World Service
American Red Cross
AmeriCares Foundation
Brother's Brother Foundation
Catholic Relief Services
Christian Reformed World Relief Committee
Compassion International
Concern Worldwide
Direct Relief International
Episcopal Relief and Development
Food for the Hungry
Friends of the World Food Program
International Medical Corps
Living Water International
Lutheran World Relief
Medical Teams International
Mercy Corps
Operation USA
Oxfam America
Physicians for Peace Foundation
Project Concern International
Salvation Army
Save the Children Federation
United States Fund for UNICEF
World Emergency Relief
World Relief
World Vision

I was considering non-secular charities. The first that came to mind was Doctors without Borders. I am also considering the Red Cross - mostly because the Red Cross puts an average of 92 cents of every dollar is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work. I can't give blood because I once ate a hamburger in the UK. (Mad Cow). Guess that explains a lot?

You can donate ten bucks by texting the word "HAITI" to 90999.

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