Within hours of a massive earthquake that devastated much of western Haiti on January 12, charities, government officials, and celebrities responded by announcing various ways in which people might help.
Millions of dollars was sent by global citizens via cell phone text message to the American Red Cross and Yele Haiti Foundation, while tens of millions more was quickly raised by World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion International, Oxfam, Unicef, Mercy Corps, and other organizations through various website, television, and radio appeals.
The United States government has responded admirably, reopening the main airport quickly although bottlenecks were evident. It took several days for significant amounts of aid to flow forth, but the trickle soon became a flood. Mexico, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, and many other countries across the globe have responded, a collective effort that may help save many lives.
Though the response has been extraordinary, a few problems have been identified, including one involving the charity associated with Haitian recording artist Wyclef Jean. Let’s take a look at some of the problems of note and how you might respond:
Yele Haiti Foundation – The face of Haiti to many Americans is Wyclef Jean, 39, a musician who was born in Haiti but moved to the New York area when he was 13. Since the quake happened, Jean has been one of the most active people in asking for funds for his foundation. Jean’s quest is to provide emergency food assistance, jobs, and small grants to affected businesses in Haiti, working cooperatively with the UN and a development organization to get the job done.
Soon after the first appeals went out, controversy arose when The Smoking Gun, a website owned by CourtTV, alleged that Jean has pocketed some of his charity’s money, while being negligent in filing timely tax returns. Some of those funds were redirected to pay rent for the New York recording studio operated by friends with additional funds used for a for-profit Haitian enterprise for which Jean and a friend have been identified as having a controlling interest in.
So, should you give to Yele Haiti? Decide for yourself. The Smoking Gun offers some compelling reasons why you might want to avoid contributing to Wyclef Jean’s work, money which might be best spent by organizations who value transparency.
About Those Text Messages — Millions of dollars in text message donations have been made, but there is a problem: those funds may not get to their respective charities until after your phone bill has been paid. Worse, according to The Consumerist, some of those funds may take three months to deliver which mean that the people who need the money the most will have to wait.
Instead of texting your donation which seems like the ultimate in technological contributing, why not log on to your favorite charity’s website and make a donation that way? Funds will immediately be charged to your credit card or withdrawn from your checking account, the fastest way to put your money to good use. Oh, by the way, cell phone companies may front some of the money donated, but do not count on that being a widespread practice.
Giving your to support the relief effort in Haiti is important, but wisely considering how that money is delivered and later used is important as well. Visit Charity Navigator to learn who is giving to Haiti, what they are doing, and how that organization is rated.
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