Hey friends, Mike Clawson here. I’m sure most of you know by now about the massive and devastating earthquake that struck the impoverished nation of Haiti yesterday evening. I was at the gym yesterday and saw it on CNN minutes after it happened, and my stomach just dropped. Some of you may remember that I have personal connections in Haiti, and have gone there in the past to help build a school and serve the people of a small village called Marfranc, about 100 miles west of the epicenter of the quake. While I’m sure we are all heartbroken by the tragedies going on in Haiti right now, it becomes even more “real” to me since I can put faces and names to the people affected by it. In the village where my friends live and work many homes have been destroyed – no word yet on local deaths and injuries there in Marfranc, though the people I know in particular are okay. Haitian officials estimate the total number of casualties will be in the hundreds of thousands (not unbelievable, considering that most of the capital city of Port-au-Prince just literally collapsed.)
I know that dozens of aid organizations, both religious and non-religious, governments and NGOs, have already sprung into action, and I have no doubt that the atheist community will be right there with and alongside all of these too. On behalf of my friends and the beautiful and desperate people of Haiti I urge you to join in and offer help as well in any way that you can, and through whichever organization you most prefer. (CNN has a good list of charitable options.) Personally I will be giving to the organization of which I have been a part that serves there in Marfranc, New Life for Haiti. Though it is a religiously-based group, the focus of their work is not proselytism. Instead NLFH focuses on building schools and clinics, educational sponsorships for children, and agricultural development. While I honestly don’t care which organization you send your support through (just do something!), I will say that one of the huge advantages of New Life for Haiti is that it is entirely volunteer run, so 98% of all funds will go directly to aid and development in Marfranc and the surrounding river valley, no organizational overhead or governmental middle-men to worry about. The plan right now, according to my friend Fran Leeman who heads the NLFH, is to put all donations into helping the people of Marfranc rebuild their homes. As Fran put it:
Our organization, New Life for Haiti, is accepting donations to buy cement to help rebuild homes in Haiti. I can guarantee you that despite all the various aid from governments that will flow into Haiti in the weeks ahead, homes will not be rebuilt. The immediate aid will be medical, clearing rubble from roads, and getting Port au Prince’s already crumbling infrastructure (roads, electric, water) operable. All these are necessary, but for our part as a small organization, we are are going to look beyond the next few weeks to rebuilding homes in the area where we work. You can donate to buy cement that will rebuild a home at http://newlifeforhaiti.org. If you are part of a church or other community, please ask them to take a special offering for Haiti relief. There are many good organizations those funds can be given to. If you would like to send it our way, we will use 100 percent of it well.
At any rate, once again, I don’t care which organization you send support through – just choose the one that best fits your own ideals and personal concerns – but please, please, do something. The extreme poverty Haitians lived in every day was already unimaginable, even before the quake. I can’t even get my head around what they must be going through now. And this isn’t just some place on the other side of the world (as if that should matter). Haiti is less than an hour and a half flight from Miami. They’re right next door.