Haiti crisis prompts high school community to give

Rachel Schowalter | Staff Writer

With various means of world aid pouring into Haiti since the earthquake, many have been left wondering not only how they can help, but which method will help Haitians the most. Monetary donations, supply donations and on-the-ground service have been the most prominent methods, with each varying in effectiveness of contributing to relief efforts.Mason High School has attempted to help Haiti relief with both a fundraiser and supply collection. According to H.O.P.E. Club advisor Nicole Paxton, $4,231 was raised by International Club and H.O.P.E. Club to give to the American Red Cross for Haiti. Paxton said that H.O.P.E. Club opted to raise money instead of collect supplies after looking online for the Red Cross’ main needs.

“We researched [whether] we should we collect items or collect money, and the news was really encouraging everyone to collect money,” Paxton said. “We felt like just by getting the word out [about donating] we could make a pretty sizable contribution to the Red Cross.”

Paxton said the ease and speed of monetary transactions also influenced the club’s decision to hold a fundraiser. According to Paxton, donated items would have taken a longer time to reach the country than monetary donations would. Transportation problems in Haiti have arisen due to lack of funding, fuel and stable roads.

“Right now the immediate response is to give all of the clothing you can and all of the food you can, but if you can’t get it there, it’s just not going to help,” Paxton said. “Having [the Red Cross] already there on the ground, I just think it’s going to be easier for them to have the resources [on the ground] and [to be] able to buy what they need versus waiting for that donation to come in.”

Nikki Williams, Communications Specialist for the Cincinnati chapter of the American Red Cross, said the Cincinnati chapter is currently only accepting monetary donations because they can be distributed faster and more efficiently.

“Money is going to be the quickest way to get anywhere,” Williams said. “If [the Red Cross] has the money to buy the resources that are needed, they’re able to distribute [them] to more people, regardless of how many[volunteers] are there to help.”

Despite the dependency on monetary donations for transporting items, Mason resident Laura Pfeil organized a district-wide collection of food, toiletry, cleaning and medical supplies for Haiti relief from January 14 to January 29. The items were then transported to Haiti through Matthew: 25 Ministries, a non-profit organization in Cincinnati.

According to Pfeil, the difficulties in transporting items are an unavoidable element of natural disasters that shouldn’t be a deterrent to collecting.

“[The transportation problems] are going to be challenging, but we will overcome them,” Pfeil said. “I think that’s why the world is mobilizing: to overcome those challenges.”

Matthew: 25 Ministries’ website said that it expects to ship 30 to 40-foot containers of aid to Haiti within the coming months. In addition to supplies, the organization said it is accepting cash donations. According to Pfeil, there is a constant relationship between monetary and supply donations because each one relies on the other.

“The money will help with paying to have the roads fixed, the cars taken there and the gas,” Pfeil said. “Then, the items Mason High School students help move [will be] transported and distributed. It’s collected items from the lobby to the a hand-in-hand relationship of a relief project.”

According to Pfeil, donated items allow for a personal connection to the Haiti victims that monetary donations don’t always provide.

“I think that [donated items provide] a whole element of proactive, hands-on visualization that connects the age groups of children, tweens and teenagers,” Pfeil said.

Hope for Haiti’s Children (HFHC), an organization which sponsors education, health care and orphan care for Haitian children, said it is expanding on this personal connection by sending its members to Haiti. Tonya Hunt, US Director of Operations for Hope For Haiti’s Children, said the organization’s immediate response to the earthquake was to travel to Haiti to find their sponsored children. According to Hunt, Manager of U.S. Operations for Hope for Haiti’s Children, the organization has an orphanage and full-time medical clinic in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. HFHC also has a headquarters located an hour outside of the capital, where Program Director Debbie Vanderbeek lives.

“Our first response was to find the children [whose education we sponsor] and to help them in any way they needed, whether it’s food, water or medical [care],” Hunt said. “We sent a medical team to find our children and support them in any way we could.”

According to Hunt, the resources needed by HFHC members on the ground are funded primarily by donations to the organization. The money is usually wired into the country, but with transportation difficulties, the HFHC medical team has resorted to carrying it themselves. Before the earthquake, the money would be received by the Program Director and distributed to the HFHC sponsored children and the organization’s orphanage. Now, Hunt said the money is being spent on basic supplies for the earthquake victims.

“So many things are not able to get into the country right now,” Hunt said. “We have to use the monetary donations to buy what is already there. The only method to obtain supplies is money or connections with another relief organization. It all comes down to having the money to pay for rice, fuel, beans, water [and other staples].”

Although the resources for HFHC members are limited, Hunt said having members in Haiti offers a direct connection with Haiti relief. By providing on-the-ground services in Haiti, the organization is able to witness the effects of their aid firsthand.

“If you’re able to see and interact with those that are already there…you know that they have benefited from the donations made [by] people in the United States,” Hunt said.

Williams said many Red Cross volunteers are also in Haiti addressing the immediate needs of the people. According to Williams, the volunteers are interviewed and go through a rigorous training process to prepare for helping in natural disasters.

“The people that the Red Cross sends to disasters, such as this international disaster in Haiti, are well-prepared and have [worked in] disaster [areas] before,” Williams said. “They’re very familiar with the process and they’re doing a fabulous job there with all the obstacles that have been thrown at them.”

According to Williams, the monetary donations received by the Red Cross play a large role in sending volunteers to Haiti.

“For every dollar that is given to the Haiti Relief fund, our international relief fund, 91 cents is used to help the people of Haiti,” Williams said. “The additional nine cents is used to help us get our people there and address their needs, as far as their supplies that they might need while they’re over there.”

Williams said the donations to the Cincinnati chapter are transferred to the national level of the Red Cross, where the money’s distribution in Haiti is determined by areas of need.

According to Williams, nearly 45 percent of American citizens have donated to Haiti relief. The Cincinnati chapter has received almost half a million dollars towards its Haiti relief fund so far.

According to Williams, the amount of aid being given to Haiti will continue to grow. She said she attributes this to the American compassion and empathy after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

“We had Hurricane Katrina right here, and I think that a lot of people — when they donate, when they see these natural disasters that are happening everywhere — know that especially after it happened right here, it can happen anywhere,” Williams said. “That urge to donate, that urge to give in some way, shape or form pulls on your heartstrings.”

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