Help Haiti January 13, 2010

Help Haiti

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 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.

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  • monkeymind

    I am donating to Partners in Health:

    I like that they take a wider view and look at societal problems with access to health care rather than just providing charity.

  • Sarah TX.

    I’ve donated to Doctors Without Borders. They have been deeply involved in Haiti (as well as many many other impoverished nations), and their facilities on the ground have been greatly damaged. Not only are countless Haitians homeless, there are few facilities currently able to treat the wounded. The pictures of courtyards filled with sick and wounded just break my heart.

    There are so many different needs on the ground right now – at first I was almost paralyzed with the thought of how many different organizations need help. But Mike Clawson makes an excellent point – we do what we can with what we have.

  • Thank you for posting this.

    I donated to oxfam:

    Oxfam Haiti Relief

  • Also if your place of employment does any kind of donation matching you should take advantage of it, even it requires a little bit of extra work of filling in a form and mailing it. 5 minutes of work could really help someone in need right now.

  • Jim

    Wyclef Jean’s organization is You can donate there or text “Yele” to 501501 to donate $5.

  • CatBallou

    Donated to MercyCorps through my company, which matches funds.

  • Claudia

    I’ve gone with Doctors Without Borders. They are already on the ground there, and as many as have died instantly many many more will die of trauma and later disease. MSF is a phenomenal organization.

    However the main point is that you try to help, the credible NGO you give to is secondary to that.

  • Good Christian

    I gave to Pat Robertson’s ministry, Not only has his organization sent millions of dollars worth of medicine to Haiti, but he’s working to undo the country’s pact with the devil to avert future disasters.

  • Andrea
  • Eliza

    Right now relief agencies need $ to provide the VERY basics – water, food, shelter, emergency medical supplies.

    They also need to get their people there and find ways to distribute the supplies in a country where the rickety infrastructure has collapsed with this earthquake. Relief agencies which were already working in Haiti have suffered substantial losses of people & resources, including the complete destruction of the UN building in Port-au-Prince, & many of those who were inside it. Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) lost 3 medical facilities to the earthquake.

  • Ash
  • stephanie

    We donated to Partners in Health. Will probably donate to something housing-wise later- but for now, we gotta go with medical need:

  • You all have mentioned some excellent organizations to give through. Thank you!

    Like Claudia said, the most important thing is to just give. However, if you are able (and who isn’t in today’s internet age), it is important to find a good aid organization to give to so you can be more assured that your support will actually make it to the people who need it. For instance, due to the extreme level of government corruption in Haiti, aid that is channeled through the Haitian government is not very likely to reach the people. It’s better to give to organizations who already have people and systems on the ground and who can coordinate their own relief efforts without having to go through government channels. Something to keep in mind.

  • Richard Wade

    I’ve donated to Mercy Corps.

    Mike, thank you for posting this. I hope all of your friends there and their families are okay.

  • Richard Wade

    I’ve also donated some money to the Red Cross.

    Seeing their site reminded me that I haven’t given blood in a while, so I made an appointment for that too. My type O is a universal donor, so I feel lucky that anyone can use it.

    Even if tomorrow’s pint doesn’t go to someone in Haiti, it’s important to add it to the humanity pool. I urge everyone to experience the joy of giving a piece of your own body to those in dire need.

  • Andrea provided the link to the Foundation Beyond Belief’s blog post about the tragedy in Haiti, but didn’t give it much explanation. While the FBB doesn’t currently have a charity on its beneficiary list that is helping out in Haiti, they did come up with a number of secular, humanist charities that are helping there. They also made a list of a few that, if you aren’t into proselytizing, you should probably avoid:

  • barbarag

    Donated to Oxfam. Thanks for you efforts to assist the people of Haiti.

  • Al

    I donated to [edit] Yéle Haiti. I don’t have access to a credit card so text message is a great way for me to donate.

  • davis

    I give to doctors without borders. most of them are athiests and most from europe. davis hart DO FACOS

  • TPO

    I hope your friends are okay Hemant. I gave to Doctors Without Borders and Foundation Beyond Belief.

    The Clinton Foundation is also leading relief efforts but I’m not that familiar with his organization.

  • I’ve just put a donation through to the Red Cross but I’m not sure if it worked. It timed out halfway through after I pressed submit. I guess that’s a good sign because it means so many people are giving, I’ll have to wait to see if I receive a receipt in the next few minutes. Is anyone else having issues donating?

  • Our family survived hurricane Katrina, though our home was torn apart and we were displaced, so we know firsthand that large humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross are first rate when it comes to providing much needed food, water, medicine, supplies, volunteers and monetary help on the ground as quickly as possible.

    As a first responder in the midst of utter destruction I was responsible for search, rescue and recovery. Later and right up until this very moment we continue to rebuild and feel the deep emotional and physical ramifications of August 29, 2005.

    But, let me be clear, as tragic and despairing as our experiences were in the aftermath of Katrina, this earthquake and resulting human toll will be thousands of times worse. The scars run deep with me, right into my heart, and the only thing left in this world that is right and worthy is to remain diligent and help those in need to the best of our ability.

    Terresa and I provide regular donations to the Red Cross and I have already given a blood donation two weeks ago. Now we will also send donations to Partners in Health and Doctors Without Borders.

    The Foundation Beyond Belief is another wonderful organization to find secular humanitarian networks and resources as well.

    The most important thing we all can do from here is send whatever we can to help folks and continue to do so for the next several months.

    Thanks for getting the word out, Hemant, and if your friend knows of an address to send cards of hope and motivation please email me because our kids need to reach out and do something as well.

    Steve Schlicht
    Biloxi MS

  • Kris

    Donated £10 through Oxfam UK 🙂

  • Once again, thank you all for supporting Haiti in all these various ways. In case any of you are interested or would like a first hand report from Haiti, I just thought I’d pass along an update from my friends in Marfranc (a rural village about a 100 miles from Port-au-Prince near the far end of the southern peninsula – if you’re looking on a map, it’s about 10 miles inland from the port city of Jeremie). BTW, they are Christian missionaries, so I’m just going to leave in their comments about praying. I hope that doesn’t offend or distract any of you:

    Hi everyone.

    Hope you don’t mind that I update you every night for awhile. We appreciate all of your prayers and your support for us here and the people in Marfranc and in Haiti.

    We know that your prayers are lifting up our brothers and sister’s here that still have no word of their loved ones. Our phones are still out and not working and there is no way for people to get to Port to check on their families even if they wanted to. We have no boats coming to Jeremie and we hear that the road to Cayes across the mountains is ruined in several places and no vehicles can pass. This means that families can not get to Port to find out where their families are. This is very, very hard on everyone. A few have heard of deaths in their families and loved ones in Port. I heard today that about 65% of the families in this area have children or families in Port. Many of the people who work in Jeremie (the men especially) have families (wives and kids) in Port and work here because they have found jobs.

    We drove into Jeremie today to see if we could find 200 sacks of cement to start working on rebuilding the houses that have had walls collapse and that have holes in their walls. Steve was able to get an order for those sacks and it will be delivered tomorrow. We will take some of it up to Pastor Plaisir’s house and he will start distributing it to people at their homes. We have to do this in a quiet, orderly manner or he will be inundated with everyone wanting cement. He has a list of those he has visited and talked to and he will find them and give out the cement. He says there are about 6 homes that he knows of that have a desperate need for the cement. They have multiple walls inside and outside of their houses…that have nothing there at all. Some people will receive just a couple of sacks because they have cracks or partial walls out and do not need that much. But many will need several sacks or more to complete their walls. We will take pictures so that you can see what is going on. They will probably be posted on our NLH website. Later I can do a newsletter with more pictures and information.

    When we were in Jeremie, everyone said that the boats that bring “everything” to Jeremie would not be coming. They normally come twice a week, totally loaded with people and provisions. We were told to buy things while we could, because no one knows when things will come in again. I bought 3 sacks of rice, 1 for us and 2 for the women’s feeding program that we run. Also bought oil, spaghetti and some sugar for us. We were also told to remember that propane comes on the boat, so to stock up. We only have 4 small tanks and those won’t last us more than probably 3 weeks. And 2 of them are currently being used and are partly empty. SO….if we can’t get any more propane….we may not have a stove or refrigerator for very long. We can cook on charcoal outside, but no oven….and if we don’t have a refrigerator…well! ha! Life will be interesting. With the road to Cayes not passable, we may not get any gasoline or diesel fuel….Steve bought 60 gal. of diesel, but we don’t think there is any gasoline….so we can run the big generator at least part of the day and at night… until we run out. Candles?????? We will keep you all posted as to what happens here.

    Our other concern is that we have tickets on AA for Monday the 25th. We have heard that the airport may be open on Sat….or maybe on Thursday? But who knows. We will just have to wait and see if AA flies by the 25th….and/or if Tortug air flies to get us to Port to catch the AA flight!!!! Again, will keep you posted on how things go.

    We appreciate your prayers, and your support. If you go to the NLH website you will see where you can donate to help us buy sacks of cement to rebuild the houses here in Marfranc. We know that there is a huge need everywhere…..we appreciate your help no matter how you do it. Port is horrible, I am kind of glad I can’t see it all on TV…I can imagine it well enough without the graphic pictures.

    I need to tell you a story before I close. This happened to me this morning and made me cry. I always go to the same guy at Brunel’s (where we cash money). He knows what percentage we get and he is really nice and we joke a lot. He is about 35 or so….a really nice guy. Today, he wasn’t at his desk…so I asked the next guy where I was supposed to go…he motioned me to another window down the room. Brunel wasn’t in his office and if my friend isn’t there, often no one will cash my check, I was sure I wasn’t going to get any money exchanged today. Then I looked up and my friend walked in the door…looked at me and motioned to come his way. He went to his desk and took my checks. Seemed quiet, but he is pretty quiet. I asked him if his house had any problems, thinking Jeremie and no one had problems in Jeremie. He said…yes, it was totally destroyed. I said, what? Here in Jeremie? He said, no Port. I was astounded, I said totally destroyed? He said YES.. I said, oh no…your family? And he shook his head. Tears came to my eyes and I said, who? your wife? He nodded yes, and said, she is dead. I asked how many children, he said 3. I couldn’t talk, or even ask him how old they were. They were all gone. I took his hand and said, I’m so sorry! He looked down, did my money, counted it out, saw that I was trying hard not to blubber in front of him. Said again, I was so sorry and left. As we were getting ready to drive away, he walked out of the office back down the street. I now know, that he saw and heard our truck, left where he was outside, came in and helped me…even through his suffering and pain….and then left after I was gone. Amazing!

    So am I worried about not having rice? No, I’m blessed that I have my family and my health and those that I love and that I do not have family in Port.

    Please pray for people that we know that we still haven’t heard from…Stanio, our adopted son of 14 years, and Toussaint’s family, a doctor and his brother and their families.

    We love you all very much,
    Joline & Steve

    PS: Please feel free to pass this on…any of it, to whomever you wish.

  • Mike,

    Would you mind passing along all of the heartfelt sentiments found in this thread from atheists and non-religious secular humanists to Joline and Steve?

    Here is our family and group website and our personal email as well:


    We are particularly interested in direct mailing addresses in Haiti where our children can send cards of hope and motivation to other kids their age (they’re really pestering us about this…HELP!)

    Thanks for anything you can do.

    Steve and Terresa Schlicht
    Biloxi MS


    Sebastian Velez, with the help of several Dominican NGOs, are organizing a trip with food and supplies to Jacmel, a city near Port-au-Prince, that was also severely destroyed but has not yet received supplies nor attention. The teams and trucks are planning to leave Saturday night and have secured an armed escort to bring them to Haiti. Mr. Velez reports that “this is our best chance to send food immediately.” Humanist Charities has so far donated $5,000 to this effort, resulting in the largest truck with the most supplies. Mr. Velez is coordinating the distribution and will continue to keep us updated.

  • Steve & Terresa,

    I will certainly pass along your expressions of support to Steve and Joline. And I’m very glad that you and your group there have found a way to get involved there in Jacmel.

    As for the kids’ letters, your best bet is to try and send them directly with Mr. Velez. Postal service was dicey in Haiti even before the earthquake, and now, well, I’m pretty sure there’s no way to get anything like that anywhere in the country except to give it to someone who can carry it there directly.

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