Tragedy in Haiti Sparks Memories, and Raises the Question – How Best to Help?

Vivid pictures keep flashing through my head. Images of the riotous ruin that was Port au Prince, Haiti, in what were relatively good times during my visit there 10 years ago. Mental portraits of the many good people I met, hoping they are OK. Knowing that some, perhaps many, are not.

My thoughts return most often to the neighborhood where my new friend and interpreter Richard grew up, and where his family still lived. The best buildings there would be targets for a bulldozer here – the rest were leaking hulks crumbling into the streets, people crammed into every nook. Surely this area now is nothing more than a rubble pile.

It is difficult to contemplate. It is not possible to imagine the misery – it was a place of inconceivable suffering in the best of times.

It’s Hard to Know What To Do

The friend I went to visit worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development – America’s very best gift to the rest of the world – and she knew that improvement could be measured only in small victories, individual triumphs. The larger picture has always been intractably out of focus.

My best advice is this: give money or volunteer work to an established agency. A few of us at Greteman Group plan to help a local Salvation Army-supported effort to pack supplies. Since it’s part of a coordinated project, the materials stand a good chance both of being useful and of actually being delivered to where they will make a difference. If you’re looking for some guidance, Charity Navigator has independent reviews and ratings of organizations doing relief work in Haiti.

Royal Caribbean Does the Right Thing

I’d like to say, too, that I’m proud of Greteman Group’s association with Royal Caribbean, which has taken unfair criticism for bringing in a cruise ship to its usual stop well away from Port au Prince. The company has made and continues to make substantial donations to the Haiti relief effort, and its decision to support the Haitian economy is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak economic landscape.