I think that viewing the magnitude of human trauma in Haiti right now is similar to trying to mentally envision the difference between a 1000 and a 2000 sided object – we can’t really do it. Our concepts only extend so far and well before 1000 we begin to lose our ability to make distinctions. Similarly, the horrific images we’re all witnessing overwhelm and saturate our understanding of the realities of the situation.
But each of us have suffered. And each of us feel that visceral shock and deep sense of sorrow when confronted by such tragedies. We likewise feel an intense desire to be “anxiously engaged” in bringing what relief we can. We have, and each of us keenly sense, a moral and religious obligation to help.
Our Church leaders, and particularly our current prophet, have made responding to such crises an immediate priority (see here, here and here for the current response to Haiti). Rarely is a Church News edition printed without highlighting a humanitarian project that the Church is engaged in. And of course, there’s our recent change/addition/modification/whatever to our Church mission.
The Church is able to respond so efficiently in large part because we, its members, support such action, because we have created a culture of service and sacrifice. The crises in Haiti will undoubtedly see mass turnout by individual members, just as past crises have. I think our largest obstacle is that as individuals we’re usually not nearly as poised for immediate response as the Church is.
The immediate call being sounded by govts and aid agencies on the ground in Haiti is for cash – to buy, transport and distribute emergency supplies and water. The current cost-benefit analyses I’m hearing state that the biggest impact you can make right now is simply to transfer your cash. Who do we donate to? What other opportunities to assist are there? What worthy projects are you aware of? I’ll list few suggestions, but want largely to turn it over to you to discuss how best we as individuals can respond.
Obviously there is the Church. You can go here to donate to our Haiti efforts. As we all know, much of the Church’s funds and supplies are turned over to other agencies. Each of us have skills for discriminating between trustworthy and untrustworthy entities (e.g., friends, businesses, politicians) – what agencies do you personally partner with?
Here’s three that I trust in the current efforts: Jesuit Refugee Service, Save the Children, and Partners in Health, are three organizations with a longstanding presence in Haiti that have made significant commitments to the disaster relief effort in Port-au-Prince.
In addition to cash, giving blood in a time like this is critical and costs very little.
If you’re capable of donating a week or two (e.g., if you’re in between jobs or have the vacation time available, or can afford unpaid leave), you can research and put yourself on agency’s lists to volunteer to go to Haiti. Teams of volunteers will likely begin deploying soon.
I’m (quite obviously here) a big believer in simply helping to advertise – people want to help but often don’t know how. Given life’s way of quickly overwhelming us, ignorance can easily turns into a lack of response. Advertise on Facebook, Twitter, email, make it a topic of conversation with others.
This might include a family home evening, educating ourselves and families on this and other similar humanitarian needs, and discussing what response makes the most sense for your family.
And then of course, I believe in the efficacy of spiritual efforts as individuals and as a religious community – special fasts and prayers, etc. Not only do I believe in the efficacy of such actions for those who suffer, I think it puts us in a position to receive revelation on what we can and should do.
Now share with us your other thoughts, ideas, and worthy agencies.
(Note: this post is emphatically not meant for rants on the corruption of govts and NGOs: It’s virtually guaranteed that dishonest parasites will do what they can to suck funds from the dying – this means we need to be wise but is clearly not an excuse to avoid action or waste energy whining)