How to Really Help in Haiti and Afghanistan

Like most of you, I am heartbroken for the many in our world who are suffering. As someone who has worked in international development for most of my career (including in Haiti before and after the 2010 earthquake), I want to share some encouraging advice on why donating money can make such an incredible difference.

I saw on the news this week that the NYPD is collecting water bottles, medical supplies, and clothing for Haiti at their local stations. Because we did a donation drive like this at charity: water when the 2010 earthquake hit, I know many incredible people will flock to drop off items. I’d love for you to consider the alternative - you’re actually a bigger hero for donating money.

Many companies donate their products during an emergency, including water bottling companies. Instead of donating your case of water in your pantry, imagine your donation provides the fuel for a cargo plane full of water, quenching thousands of peoples' thirst. Or, your donation pays to get wells working again, fixing the water issue.

Imagine instead of your worn clothes, you give a donation to a small group home or orphanage. If they need clothes, imagine they can hire a local tailor with your donations. Now, you are clothing kids and helping a local business that lost everything in the earthquake.

Imagine donating money to a hospital. With your donation, they can call in for the exact amount of blood, or equipment, or anything they need. Because of you, they can respond quickly to their patients' needs.

My examples are not fictitious. I once opened a closet at a health clinic in Haiti to find at least a dozen donated humidifiers, still in their boxes. If you’ve spent time in the Caribbean, you would know that it’s already (very) humid. Plus, the outlets to the plugs are different. So the charity thanked the donor and then put them in the closet.

I know an executive director in Uganda who once had to pay hundreds of dollars to get a cargo shipping container out of customs. She opened it to discover XL winter coats, donated by well-intentioned Americans, for refugees up in the arid north.

But I know it's hard. It feels incredible to give items because it’s so tangible. So seen. You can imagine that child drinking your water or wearing your kids' old clothes. But often it’s the unseen that allows for nonprofits to respond efficiently to help the most people possible. The best nonprofits are led by locals that know exactly what the community needs. Trust them to use your money in a way that actually helps.

Save yourself the closet cleanup and the trip to the NYPD and just click donate to your favorite org. Then, feel incredible because you gave such a wonderful and effective gift.

As someone who is working on the other side, I can wholeheartedly share that every bit makes a difference.

Below is a list of organizations I have a personal connection with (noted in the description) or who have come recommended by our community. If you have a nonprofit you would like to recommend, please list them in the comments below.

Partners in Health: They have doctors, surgeons, and cargo shipments arriving in affected areas. Emergency care capabilities are expanding, supported by the large network of Partners In Health, known in Haiti as Zanmi Lasante. They’re bringing direct assistance to those affected by the earthquake and, having seen their sites in Haiti and Malawi myself, I cannot recommend them enough.

Haitian Global Health Alliance: Donations go directly to supporting mobile healthcare teams and preparing for the anticipated influx of displaced patients and refugees. I know the Executive Director and I appreciate that it’s Haitian run.

Women for Afghan Women: They are working day and night to provide safe shelter, resources, and aid to keep the thousands of women, children, families, and the staff who are under their care safe. They have been working in Afghanistan for 20 years and are majority Afghan-led.

International Rescue Committee: The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future. The IRC has worked in Afghanistan through 3 decades of crisis, providing millions of people with education, shelter, clean water, health care, and more.

International Medical Corps: They‘ve been in Afghanistan since their founding in 1984, providing emergency and primary healthcare, along with training to build skills and resilience. With staff throughout the country committed to providing lifesaving aid that local communities depend upon, they have a long-term commitment to the people in the country. (They also work in Lebanon and Haiti as well.)

If you know of other organizations working on the ground in the areas hardest hit this last week, please comment below so our community can continue to expand their generosity.

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