The Red Cross has estimated nearly three million people were affected by the earthquake. Haiti lost its Presidential Palace, and its parliament building, with parliament in session. Many lives were lost. The U.S. Geological Survey documents that the earthquake was felt as far away as Tampa – and perhaps it has been in more ways than one. Many Tampa Bay area residents and groups heard the call for help from Haiti and answered it.
One of the most prominent campaigns locally and nationally has been the easy donation line provided by the Red Cross. Texting “Haiti” to 90999 donates $10 to Haitian relief efforts – enough to provide a family with two water cans for clean drinking water, basic first aid supplies, and a blanket. This campaign has been enormously successful, with donations collected at a astounding rate of $200,000/hour. The Red Cross has spent or committed more than $67 million to “meet the most urgent needs of earthquake survivors.”
Many faith-based groups have also rushed to Haiti’s aid, including the Church of Scientology, whose Volunteer Ministers have received national media attention, with official acknowledgements from the Haitian Embassy and the Georgia State Senate. “No matter how bad things become, something can be done about it,” is the motto of the Volunteer Ministers, “an embracive program of the Church of Scientology to provide community service, disaster relief and emergency response,” according to their website.
Volunteer Ministers were quick to respond in Haiti, as they were at Ground Zero after 9/11, in Southeast Asia after the tsunami, and in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. The Church of Scientology chartered two flights to Haiti, carrying 132 Volunteer Ministers, 10 tons of food, water and medical supplies, and 250 doctors and medical personnel who needed a lift – including members of the Association for Haitian Physicians Abroad, the Bed-Sty Volunteer Ambulance Corps, a group of Mormon doctors, and the Health Minister for the Nation of Islam, who is also a licensed general surgeon. On the scene in Haiti, Volunteer Ministers are assisting medical personnel and distributing food and supplies.
Cary Goulston, Clearwater resident and founder of Global Pioneers, a group that has been working in Haiti since before the quake, was among the first to respond, and was on the ground himself with the first flight. His group has been dedicatedly raising funds and support for Haiti. “From the moment the earthquake hit, I was flat out getting help for Haiti,” Goulston said.
Actor and Florida resident John Travolta also donated his own airplane and time flying doctors, supplies and Volunteer Ministers to Haiti. “We have the ability to actually help make a difference in the situation,” Travolta said, “I just can't see not using this plane to help.” Travolta and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, helped volunteers and U.S. military personnel unload their cargo of six tons of food and medical supplies.
Many local schools are also helping. Delphi Academy is holding a toy drive for a Haitian orphanage, and Clearwater Academy International partnered with Bless the Child to donate “boxes of hope” to Haiti, and accepted tuition-free the children of a temporarily relocated Haitian family.
Haiti will be recovering and rebuilding for quite some time, but it is good to know local people are assisting the relief efforts every way they can.