New Yorkers are banding together to show support for Haiti, a country that has been devastated by the latest round of this season’s storms. An estimated 800,000 Haitians are in dire need of assistance and
over 600 are reported dead. New York has long been a destination for Caribbean natives, and the large Haitian community in New York is teaming up with local organizations to help their home country. Manhattan Deputy Borough President Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, the first Haitian to occupy the deputy borough president slot in any of the five boroughs, is helping create an initiative on behalf of her office to assist Haiti in this time of need. “Now that the storms are over, we need to look to longer term re-building. Schools are currently being used as shelters, which means that children are not in school. We need to look at what can be done to prevent this type of situation from happening again,” said Pierre-Louis, who noted that people who want to donate to the cause should send money to trusted organizations rather than actual supplies to the region. “There is a lot of need for perishable and non-perishable items, but aside from efforts like the First Border Health Mission’s supply drive, it’s best to just send funds to knowledgeable organizations who can best determine how and where to target resources.” The First Border Health Mission, in partnership with Stepping Stone Ministries, is helping get resources to the battered region through collaboration with Haitian and Dominican New Yorkers. The two countries share a sometimes-contentious border. A shipping container donated by New Age Digital Media will be placed at the intersection of 175th Street and Amsterdam from September 26-September 28 to collect needed items to ship to the region. “We’re asking the public to bring items like pain relievers, canned milk, sanitary napkins, salt, portable radios, batteries and other items people need. We want to show solidarity between Dominicans and Haitians. We want to show togetherness. We can look out for our brothers and sisters despite any differences,” said Herman Mendoza, co-founder and director of operations of Stepping Stone Ministries. Monetary donations can be made at any Citibank branch to account number 41368231 in care of Operation Haiti Relief. Staffers and volunteers for this effort will be personally traveling to Haiti to distribute the supplies. UNICEF, a trusted 60-year-old organization, recently shipped eight and a half metric tons of supplies to Haiti, thanks to millions of dollars in donations. Among other things, the organization has distributed 30,000 liters of drinking water (with more to come) and is helping to care for displaced orphans. An interagency taskforce in Port-au-Prince meets regularly, with some sub-committees meeting several times a week. “We know the storms come every year, so we are now designing fundraising materials so that we can do targeted fundraising early on before the big storms hit, so there’s not a scramble for resources after the fact. We are trying very hard to ensure that children are getting what they need, including getting a better education,” said Caryl Stern, president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “We are an organization that cares about kids no matter where they are in the world. We are aware that there are cultural nuances that are important to know in order to help a community during a crisis. That is why we just had a meeting with Haitian leaders, and we will continue to have meetings like that with leaders of other communities as well so we can better target our resources.” To donate to UNICEF’s efforts, visit www.unicefusa.org. Governor David Paterson recently convened a meeting of elected officials, organizations and Haitian community leaders (including New York’s first Haitian city councilman, Mathieu Eugene) in order to talk about the various relief efforts for Haiti. There are several different events and donation drives planned, including the Haiti S.O.S. Benefit Concert at Amazura (91-12 144th Place, Jamaica, Queens) beginning at 3 p.m. Proceeds go to UNICEF. Be sure to keep reading the AmNews in the coming weeks to learn more about how you can help Haiti.