I'm going to give you a number, and hopefully you will understand what I'm feeling.
That's a big number. Very, very big. Not quite a quarter of a million, but a substantial figure nonetheless. It's how many people were murdered in the genocide in Darfur by 2006. It's how many people died in the combined nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. It's how many children die in just over a week due to poverty alone, says UNICEF.
And now, it's the estimated number of deaths caused by the Haitian earthquake and subsequent aftershock, cited by the EU.
Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. According to the CIA's World Factbook, the 2008 estimated GDP per capita was $1,300. Add another zero, multiply that value by 3.5, and you've got the United States GDP.
Granted, the U.S. is a larger and more powerful nation that doesn't get savaged by natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes very often, so it is bound to be more wealthy, but it still makes me cringe to compare the statistics.
I remember I was at this peace conference in November 2008 (and this past November, too) called the Global Youth Forum, a program held by the humanitarian organization People to People International. The day before we arrived in Denver to talk about education and its connection to poverty, a school in Haiti collapsed in a hurricane. 90 people died, and many more were injured. I just remember being absolutely blown away by the idea that these people who wanted to learn and had the opportunity to do so lost that opportunity with a flash of lightning, the hammering rain and swift winds that in the U.S., might have caused moderate damage at the worst.
And now these people have nothing. And those 90 lives might not equal 200,000, but they still hit me as hard.
And I'm annoyed that I can't attend Fashion Week and that I missed out on the open casting for Hair on Broadway and that I don't have a source of real income. Seems kinda ridiculous, no?
I'm writing this, not because I want to scold anyone or say that one passion is more important than any other, but because I want this artistic, creative, clever community to funnel that creativity into this cause.
And there are people who have.
For example, there is the organization Fashion Delivers. FD was created "on September 15, 2006, with only a three day notice" by "thirty fashion industry leaders... to figure out how the industry could provide relief to the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita." In that year alone, they raised $4.6 million worth of products which were then given to victims.
This is their mission statement: "The mission of Fashion Delivers Charitable Foundation, Inc. is to unify the men’s and women’s apparel and home industries to donate new product in order to aid victims of disasters and individuals in need throughout the year."
Since its inception, Fashion Delivers has raised a total of $30 million worth of products. That's pretty amazing.
If you want to help contribute to FD, you can donate money through NetworkForGood.org or JustGive.org, call the number on their website or ship apparel/check for a monetary donation to the address below.
CHARITABLE FOUNDATION, INC.
112 West 34th St., #1133
New York, NY 10120
Target will donate $500,000 to the American Red Cross. Walmart's giving a large sum to the cause as well.
Rice and Beans Vintage will donate $10 for every item purchased to the Red Cross. This really piqued my interest, considering how much I love vintage!
American designer John Bartlett donated 10% of all proceeds over the previous weekend to the Red Cross.
And there's even more. Way, way more. The editor of the Fashionably Independent, Daniel Saynt, is truly a saint [cue rim shot]. He has gotten designers Marc Jacobs, Adam Lippes of ADAM, Nicole Miller and Tia Cibani of Ports 1961 to donate seats to their New York Fashion Week shows for Haiti. "All this week we’ve been contacting designers, asking for contributions and the fashion community has not failed to once again show itself as and industry with heart," Saynt wrote in an entry. "Giving up a seat at fashion week is nothing compared to the efforts being made by millions of individuals to make some change in an area that is suffering so greatly."
But on the contrary, Mr. Saynt. It's a large step toward helping our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Those tickets are going to raise a lot of funds for Heal Haiti. They will be up for auction on CharityBuzz starting February 1st, so keep your eyes and browsers open!
Also on CharityBuzz are the celebs. Of course, the much-publicized celebrity telethon for Hope for Haiti Now was last night. Hope for Haiti Now, a group in partnership with MTV, promises that "100% of funds raised will go towards relief efforts in Haiti and there are NO backend costs. Additionally, the Entertainment Industry Foundation has waived all administrative fees." All donations go to support groups like the Red Cross, UNICEF, the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, Yele Haiti and Stand with Haiti, to name a few. The benefit hosted by George Clooney last night raised at least $57 million for the cause.
The glamor and the glitz can be yours. Remember that glorious beaded Gucci gown House star Olivia Wilde wore to the Golden Globes? Well, she's auctioning it off through Artists for Peace and Justice. Why can't I be rich? Other beautiful people donating their clothing and accessories include Meryl Streep, Amy Poehler, Gerard Butler, Liv Tyler, Lady Gaga and Gisele Bundchen.
Now, I want to say this: if you have the means, please donate in some way. Here's a list of some other places to which you can donate without being caught in scams, because there have been a number of reported (and unreported, I'm sure) scammers "taking donations for Haiti."
Food for the Poor is an organization that, according to their website, "ministers to spiritually renew impoverished people throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Established in 1982 as a 501(c)(3) corporation, our goals are to improve the health, economic, social and spiritual conditions of the men, women and children we serve. Food For The Poor raises funds and provides direct relief assistance to the poor, usually by purchasing specifically requested materials and distributing them through the churches and charity organizations already operating in areas of need."
Cross International "locates needy church-based ministries serving the poor and distributes material aid through their existing programs."
CARE is accepting donations, too. CARE "is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. We place special focus on working alongside poor women because, equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty. Women are at the heart of CARE's community-based efforts to improve basic education, prevent the spread of HIV, increase access to clean water and sanitation, expand economic opportunity and protect natural resources. CARE also delivers emergency aid to survivors of war and natural disasters, and helps people rebuild their lives."
Finally, the American Red Cross and its hundreds of volunteers are working tirelessly to help the Haitians, along with UNICEF.
What these people need are advocates who will stand by them and help them rebuild their lives. And maybe this tragedy can spawn miracles. Maybe the world will come together for a broken, beaten nation of broken, beaten people that truly needs all of the world's help.
In the words of Haitian Wyclef Jean: "Earthquake, we see the earth shake, but the soul of the Haitian people will never break!"
I don't have a lot of money of my own, but I am going to pledge to donate $10 a week for the next month to this cause. That's only $40, but it's something. I'm also going to see how I can volunteer my time, be it at my school or in my community. I just want to do as much as possible.
I've made this badge for people to use if they want to show their support:
Take a moment to be thankful for all of the luxuries you have. Smile a bit, hug your families, call your friends. Because you never know when you could suddenly be incapable of those actions we take for granted each day.
Images courtesy of Modelcouture, CNN, Reuters for Yahoo! and Fashion Delivers. Information and statistics from UNICEF, The World Factbook and Coalition for Darfur.