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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
We are all connected. 
13th-Jan-2010 05:45 pm
One Person can Make a Difference
And that connection is so visible now, with the advent of the internet. We know people we never would have before.

And so we all know about the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and we are all affected.

One of my colleagues at BARCC is from Haiti; his outreach community is the local Haitian community, and it's thanks to him that we now offer services in Creole. He was one of the facilitators of my volunteer training, and he's part of the outreach group I'm in now that I work there. He is... above all else, a tremendously kind and graceful man.

His family and his wife's family are still in Haiti. And as of late this afternoon, they have not heard from them.

Here's how to help.

I encourage you to do your research when selecting a charity; I have issues with the Red Cross, United Way, and Salvation Army, for example, but I heartily recommend Doctors Without Borders, for example, and I've heard that Yele is giving 100% of donations to disaster relief and not skimming off the top for "administrative funds" like the United Way does.

So find a charity and give what you can. And please spare a thought for my colleague and his family, and for everyone in Haiti who is injured, homeless...

Agh. Just. Do what you can. Do everything you can. And keep an eye on the situation.

Thank you.
13th-Jan-2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
another good place to donate:

They focus on medicine, with almost no overhead...
Scarey stuff.
13th-Jan-2010 11:00 pm (UTC)
For Doctors Without Borders it's also important to make sure your donation is marked as either "unspecified" or "greatest need" or something like that to allow them the greatest flexibility to use the funds.
13th-Jan-2010 11:07 pm (UTC)
I also recommend the Charity Navigator to look into how they rate charities: http://www.charitynavigator.org/

I don't expect 100% of my donation to go directly to need -- there's always some overhead. I like knowing how MUCH though.
13th-Jan-2010 11:43 pm (UTC)
I have been scouring the net all afternoon and evening because my godson is living in an orphanage in Port-au-Prince until the adoption is official. There are a lot of places on the net with information on how to get information about loved ones. The cnn website is a good start. Phone lines are cut but people can get through on Twitter and the net in general.

I hope your coworker's family and in-laws are safe and sound.
14th-Jan-2010 12:09 am (UTC)
Partners In Health (link goes to their CharityNavigator profile) is on the ground in Haiti now and has very low institutional overhead.
14th-Jan-2010 12:42 am (UTC)
Camberville in particular has a large Haitian population. My clinic, and IIRC the Cambridge Hospital, have signs translated into Haitian even more than Spanish. When I was organizing for the Somerville Bill of Rights Defense Committee in 2003/04, the largest event we had (not counting having a table at ArtBeat, since that was not our event) was a talk I co-organized with a Somerville Haitian group. And come to think of it, the most recent local band I went to see, on Friday night, is part-Haitian and plays Haitian music (which I love, the rara/vodou sort, not so much compas).

If we truly were all connected, the Congo war (which has killed literally millions and continues to drag on) would have gotten a lot more of our attention than it has. We are, however, quite connected to Haiti over here.
14th-Jan-2010 01:02 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm paying attention to Congo, too. The incidence of rape as a tool of war over there... staggering and heartbreaking.
14th-Jan-2010 01:28 am (UTC)
I totally support Doctors Without Borders as well. *nods*
14th-Jan-2010 03:12 am (UTC)
When I was working, I was a coordinator for our Combined Federal Campaign, the Federal equivalent of United Way. Each year, all the charities were evaluated as to usage of funds, and no one was allowed to participate who allocated more than 25% to overhead. Consider the costs involved in moving personnel and equipment to remote parts of the globe, and in securing supplies for dissemination far and wide. Overhead is necessary, in most cases. And to get the job done, depending upon the size of the organization, salaries are necessary for coordinators and fund-raisers. You work for a charitable organization, yes? And you get paid for your work. The money's gotta come from somewhere.

Being involved in the selection and approval of the various organizations gave me a whole new outlook on the massive logistics involved in charitable work. I remain in awe of those who participate in this kind of endeavor, but I came to realize that overhead is a necessary part of the program. Some years back, United Way was found to have fraud and misuse of funds, which has since been corrected, but which sullied the name of charity in general. Public perception still seems to be that most charities are fraudulent, as indeed a few are, but the vast majority are doing good works with far too little money.
14th-Jan-2010 03:17 am (UTC)
Public perception still seems to be that most charities are fraudulent, as indeed a few are, but the vast majority are doing good works with far too little money.

Oh, I agree! Which is why I advocate charities like Doctors Without Borders.

(At BARCC, we're paid out of federal grant money, never people's charitable donations. Those go to the work.)
14th-Jan-2010 09:21 am (UTC)
Fair enough. You are fortunate to have grant money.
14th-Jan-2010 07:10 am (UTC)
I donated to Mercy Corps. They do good work, and they're pretty efficient -- more than 85% of money raised goes for their program, and administration costs are kept under 10%.
14th-Jan-2010 01:19 pm (UTC)
A lot of people don't know this, but each and every United Way is an autonomous organization that is aligned with the national organization. (Each local United Way agrees to adhere to a rigorous set of standards set by the national organization and pays dues for branding rights and so forth). This means that each United Way sets its own policies and runs its own business.

I work for a local United Way, and can speak for my organization. Everything we do is transparent, and what's more, we have corporate underwriters that cover all of our fundraising and administrative expenses (we're one of only 20 United Ways who can say this), which means that not one penny of donor dollars is used for such things. 100% of our donor's contributions go right back out into our local community. What's more, the money that goes into our Community Fund is allocated by community volunteers (people just like you), not by staff.

Just something I thought you might want to know. I don't know anything about the Boston area United Way so I can't speak for it. But please don't paint all United Ways with the same brush. Yes, there have been bad practices and fraud and illegal activities at some United Ways, but that has nothing to do with other United Ways at all.
14th-Jan-2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
So noted - and you're right, I didn't know that at all. I thought the 75% skim-off for "administrative costs" was across the board.
14th-Jan-2010 03:20 pm (UTC)
No, not at all - and 75%??? That's disgusting.

The one time our United Way took an administrative fee was when we were doing national processing for Lockheed Martin (we no longer are because of restructuring the company went through recently). Because of all of the extra work involved, we exacted a 2% fee ONLY on those donations that came from outside our local Lockheed Martin offices.

Anyone can try looking up their local United Way on the Charity Navigator website (which does a really good job of rating many nonprofits) to see how it fares. Smaller UWs may not have a profile, but all of the larger ones should.
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