Many of you have been asking for my opinion about how to best support Haiti after the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew. You really humble me by asking! Thank you for that!
First though, let me just urge you to please understand that the problems in Haiti are much bigger than the devastation from a hurricane. They were bigger than the earthquake in 2010 too. (So be prepared to be unsatisfied and downright disgusted with the relief efforts at times, same as the relief efforts after the earthquake.) If you can, consider a monthly commitment, even if it’s just a few dollars, to support long-term efforts instead of a one time gift to relief efforts. It is vital that people support the organizations doing the best work, and since you all keep asking, I’m going to weigh in, so here goes…
My personal recommendations are:
— Episcopal Relief & Development (www.episcopalrelief.org) I’m an ERD representative at my church and have the utmost respect for and confidence in their work. This is the group I personally support. They do amazing relief work but they don’t stop at Relief. They go in with the intention of coming alongside folks and helping them develop strong communities. They are always focused on big picture long term goals. Their work is really amazing.
— JP HRO (www.jphro.org) When we were opening our libraries, I had great conversations with their team and almost partnered with them on a library once. I’ve toured their facilities and can vouch for the amazing work they do. Their commitment and the quality of their work is top notch.
Thank you for your interest and your prayers! Every little bit helps so if you can support the relief efforts, that’s great.
While I’m at it, I try really hard to promote what I love rather than bashing what I hate, so I won’t go into details but the organizations I refuse to support are UNICEF, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. I have mixed feelings about the Clinton Foundation because they’ve done some amazing things, but they fail to meet my own admittedly subjective set of standards for organizations I give money to. I have an extreme aversion to UNICEF because of very personal experience we had with them in Haiti. It’s like throwing money in the trash, unfortunately. (Don’t get me started on the super long row of Mercedes SUVs that sit outside their lush offices in Port-au-Prince.)
Many of you have asked about our family (my husband is Haitian for anyone who didn’t know) and our libraries (we have 3 libraries in Haiti). They are safe. Thank you for your concern! Most of our family live in Ouanaminthe (along the northern border) and Pilate (not marked on this map but it’s not too far from St. Michel which is in the north central region. Our libraries are in Pilate, Ouanaminthe and Fort Liberte (near Ouanaminthe). The hurricane hit the southwest hardest of all. The southern peninsula is what you’re seeing on the news. It’s in bad shape.
For all its problems, Haiti is an amazing country. The people of Haiti are some of the most faithful, joyful and generous people I’ve ever met. The culture is beautiful. I highly recommend the cuisine (and it is cuisine, by the way — not just food!) and the art. (If you’re in my area, you might even twist my arm into making you something yummy like rice with cashews and fried plantains!) And if you’re a reader, one of my favorite authors in the world is a Haitian woman, Edwidge Danticat. She writes in English, so don’t be afraid. Go buy something of hers as soon as you possibly can! My absolute favorite is “Breath Eyes Memory.” Here’s a link to a list of her books on Amazon.
It is wrenching to see the images on the news and to have brief little waves of grasping the level of the suffering they have been through in Haiti (which we can never truly understand), and then on top of that, to see that it just keeps coming. I wish I had something comforting to say to those of you who empathize and want so much to walk with the Haitian people. Thank you for keeping them in your prayers! Prayer really is the only thing I have any confidence in, as much as I do recommend the organizations I mentioned above. They’ll never save Haiti or any other nation, though. All we can do is pray. So I offer this, from the Episcopal Relief & Development website:
On the Occasion of a Disaster
Compassionate God… Draw near to us in this time of sorrow and anguish, comfort those who mourn, strengthen those who are weary, encourage those in despair, and lead us all to fullness of life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen
— Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (Church Publishing: New York), page 733 in Tagalog
A Prayer for First Responders
Blessed are you, Lord, God of mercy, who through your Son gave us a marvelous example of charity and the great commandment of love for one another. Send down your blessings on these your servants, who so generously devote themselves to helping others. Grant them courage when they are afraid, wisdom when they must make quick decisions, strength when they are weary, and compassion in all their work. When the alarm sounds and they are called to aid both friend and stranger, let them faithfully serve you in their neighbor. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Adapted from the Book of Blessings, #587, by Diana Macalintal
Prayer for Preparedness and Response
O God, our times are in your hand. In the midst of uncertainty lead us by your never-failing grace as we seek to be agents of healing and hope. Walk with us through difficult times; watch over us in danger; and give to us a spirit of love and compassion for those who suffer and mourn. And finally remind us that you have promised never to leave us so that even in the valley of the shadow of death your love may be felt, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
— The Rev. Lyndon Harris, from the Episcopal Diocese of New York disaster preparedness plan
PS — The earthquake in Haiti was the catalyst for me to find my faith. If you’re interested in that story, let me know. I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to write that story, unsure if it’s of any interest to anyone but me!!