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Joanne Fritz

Top Three Do's and Don'ts for Helping Haiti

By January 15, 2010

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It turns out that we have learned quite a lot about helping out in international emergencies in recent years, as well as our own, such as Hurricane Katrina. Now, it's time to put those lessons to good use.

Here are the top three Do's and Don'ts of helping Haiti:

  1. Give money, not things. Food, medicines, toiletries all have to be packaged, shipped, delivered and distributed. In crisis zones, these packages often sit and just get in the way. Many are not needed or are the wrong things at the wrong time. Money can be used immediately by aid groups working on the ground. They know how to get what they need and distribute it. They need our money to make that possible. An article in the Global Post speaks to this problem eloquently.

  2. Donate safely. Scams are rampant as they always are during times of distress. Make sure you donate money to established agencies. Check out the list of recommended charities at The Center for International Disaster Information and at Charity Navigator. Do not respond to telephone solicitations. Give directly to the charity of your choosing. Designate that your donation should be used for Haitian relief efforts, don't respond to personal appeals from individuals who might send emails, and don't open suspicious attachments.

  3. Do not show up to volunteer. In Haiti, the airport is under terrible stress just trying to land the planes carrying personnel and aid. In addition, there is no infrastructure, food or water. You may mean well, but you would likely be in the way unless you have specific skills that are needed. Aid groups know how to mobilize the appropriate volunteers for the tasks at hand. The Good Intentions Are Not Enough blog has written about this problem extensively, as well as soliciting advice from actual people on the ground in Haiti.


Photo by Frederic Dupoux/Stringer/Getty Images News

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