April 12th marked the three-month anniversary of a catastrophic earthquake; one that claimed the lives of 200,000 people and brought the world to the devastated doorstep of Haiti – the poorest nation in our hemisphere.
The disaster-weary people of Haiti desperately needed – and still need – our help. We desperately want to help them. And in all the scrambling to give, serve and make a difference amidst extraordinary challenges, we – the American Red Cross included – have received something in return. As caring individuals and humanitarian-minded businesses, agencies and organizations, we are gifted with the realization that it will take all of us, working together, to accomplish what we hope to in Haiti.
Unlike disasters here at home, the model the American Red Cross uses for international disaster response is not to send in large numbers of our volunteers who may not speak the language or know the people. Instead, we send a select, highly trained number to work through the local Red Cross society to help their workers deliver our relief supplies. Local Red Cross societies know the people, language and geography. They have established relationships with other organizations and the government.
This collaborative model has succeeded repeatedly over decades of international disaster relief work and extends to other organizations as well. While the American Red Cross alone has already spent a record $110 million for food, water, shelter, health and family relief services in Haiti, and our efforts have touched the lives of close to two million people, we realize that we cannot meet every need ourselves.
In areas where we do not have extensive expertise, we have donated millions more of our donated dollars to other organizations. Together, we’re ensuring that the needs of earthquake survivors are being met in the fastest, most effective way possible. These include agencies such as the World Food Programme, which provided meals for one million people for one month, Fonkoze, to help fund small grants and microfinance loans to 16,000 people, and Habitat for Humanity to fund 14,000 emergency shelter kits.
I’m proud to say that these Habitat for Humanity-branded shelter kits, funded with donated American Red Cross dollars, were assembled right here in metro Atlanta in recent days with the help of our local Red Cross volunteers. In the end, when humanitarians partner, it’s not the logos that matter but the 70,000 people that will benefit.
Today, American Red Cross relief efforts, made possible, in part, through collaboration and the generosity of Atlanta, are evident throughout Haiti. Though they may not always bear the visible mark of a red cross, they were indeed paid for by caring Red Cross donors who entrusted us to use their dollars wisely to help the people of Haiti. With gratitude for their support, that’s what we intend to do, until the last dollar is spent.
Timothy English, CEO / American Red Cross, Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter