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How You Can Directly Help Haiti
110 points by dariusmonsef on Jan 14, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments

++This is at least a double-scroll message, so I appreciate you taking a couple minutes to read it++

I'm currently working on growing my startup (a YC company), but previously I spent 2 years building a non-profit that sets up volunteer centers in disaster areas and I'd like to ask you for your help in supporting it. We are a super lean organization with an executive director that takes a $0 per year salary. Donations are being gathered to directly help the people in Haiti.

Haiti has suffered a catastrophic disaster. It's quite hard to fully conceptualize what something like this does to a country. For those of you who have experienced life in a 3rd world country, you know how shocking everyday life can be for some people... add on top of that chaos, pain, fear and a collapse of basic services... The people in Haiti are greatly suffering now and will be for the months if not years to come.

My organization (Hands On Disaster Response, www.HODR.org) sets up volunteer centers so that anyone can spend a day/week/month volunteering and doing meaningful work to help people recover from a natural disaster. If a volunteer can get themselves to one of our projects, we provide the food, housing, tools and work management. There is no cost to volunteer with us. We source work locally in connection with local residents and officials to make sure we're doing the work that the people really need. We live in the communities we are working to help and we form personal relationships with them.

We will give 100% of the donations we receive for the Haiti Earthquake Response to Haiti. We may also set up a volunteer center where we would welcome any of you to visit and lend a hand personally.

The immediate needs will be for cash donations and for PR help. Cash donations can be made directly on our website www.hodr.org/haiti_earthquake and our Development Officer Andrew Kerr is available via email at Andrew@HODR.org or by phone at 919-830-3573 for inquiries. We can also use support in spreading the word about us and the work we do. Any connections to the national media or to PR firms willing to help with Pro Bono work would be greatly appreciated.

How You Can Help:

Make a donation. It will all go to help the people in Haiti. 100% of it. (You can make a secure donation online at www.HODR.org)

Spread the word. Let your people know about us and if you need any information, photos, material, etc. contact Andrew@hodr.org or by phone at 919-830-3573.)


Our Haiti Experience:

We ran a six-month-long hurricane response project in Haiti from October 2008 to March 2009, organizing 151 volunteers from 14 countries and collaborating with dozens of other organizations like CRS, UNICEF, Oxfam Intermon, Oxfam Great Britain, IFRC, UN OCHA, OIM, and Action Against Hunger. We did all of this meaningful work on the small budget of $200,000. Your donations go a very long way with us. $5,000 - Provided 25 contamination-resistant wells to hundreds of families. $30,000 - Sponsors an entire project for 1 month, bringing direct assistance to those who need it most.

We're sending an assessment team down this weekend to reconnect with our local contacts to establish how best we can help the people of Haiti. This might mean we'll deploy a team to organize a volunteer center... or it might mean we'll decide that we're not the best organization to help the people and we'll give 100% of the funds we've raised for Haiti to organizations that will be their helping.

During this critical time it is important for everyone to be patient and realize that with the amount of the devastation this will be a long term recovery process. Search and rescue will be critical over the next week, and then the long term work of helping the country recover will begin. We post regular updates to our blog and our twitter streams. You can learn more about us at www.HODR.org.

Info From Our Previous Haiti Project: http://hodr.org/pages/haiti/

Read Our Annual Report from 2009: http://hodr.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/HODR_2009_Annual_Report.pdf

(HODR is an official 501c3. We've been running now for 5 years and have organized 12 volunteer projects in 7 countries. Our annual financial reports are available on our website)


Another Request:

For a lot of people who feel compelled to give, they're going to do what a majority of the press are telling them to do... and that is to donate to the Red Cross. I am going to urge you to reconsider that. I'll speak lightly about my frustrations with the Red Cross, and focus more on the positives about how you and your donations can make a real impact... But, the Red Cross is $600,000,000 in debt. They spend $200 million a year on their administrative costs. (I understand that they do important work and that good people deserve good living wages, but they have a history of mismanagement with their funds) 100% of donations made to the Red Cross right now will not end up in Haiti. So if you or your friends, co-workers or family want to help the people in Haiti; help them give to an organization that is on the ground and who will spend their donations directly on the people in Haiti. Tell them about HODR.org


Thanks, +Darius

I volunteered with Hands On in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. They do an amazing job, and unlike the Red Cross they do not spent millions on administrative costs but instead provide just enough to comfortably house and feed volunteers while giving their most to those in need.

edit: Just for more info: the group I was with stayed in a church that allowed us to use their spare space to set up bunks for about 100 volunteers. We ate entirely off of donation giftcards from the local Winn-Dixie supermarket. Home Depot donated most, if not all, of the tools and a truck. An Americorps team(who brought several minivans along) lead several teams of volunteers in the actual work. The entire operation had almost 0 expenses and was very well run.

Regarding "The Red Cross Is $600,000,000 in debt", this comment from another thread seems like very important context:


Smart people both inside and outside our network have recommended Partners in Health --- www.PIH.org --- they're on the ground right now in Haiti and working to get surgeons from the states set up to handle Port au Prince victims. They have an absolutely painless donation page. PIH spends the vast majority of its revenue on programs, has 4 stars on Charity Navigator, and pays its chief executive less than many QA engineers.

Charity Navigator profile of Partners in Health:


Link to Partners in Health's Haiti information page:


Thanks for the link. That is a big difference and I appreciate the information. With that being said, RC is still a bloat of an organization that spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year on overhead... and will not give 100% of the money they're raising right now for Haiti to Haiti.

Ultimately, isn't what matters that the most aid possible gets to where it's needed? I don't understand the criticism of organizations that spend money on "overhead."

I think Dan Pollatta's book, Uncharitable, is pretty interesting. In your comments on the other thread you talk about not accepting the status quo and having a hacker attitude towards charity, but it seems like your criticisms of the Red Cross are because they aren't status quo enough -- they spend some non-zero amount on things other than direct aid.

We should judge a charity on it's efficacy, not its tactics. If it costs $500,000 a year to convince the most talented people to spend their time working with a charitable organization, and if that person proves to be worth the money, why shouldn't that be encouraged?

Up-voted, thank you for reading Pallotta's book, that book is a mindbomb...

What sort of expertise / skills would you be looking for in volunteers?

I've set up a small site at http://haitibizrelief.blogspot.com/ designed to give people a fast and easy way to donate, view donations through ChipIn, and to get some exposure for their startup or business.

After reading this post, I've altered the site to make the beneficiary of these donations to be HODR.

So what is the money paying for if 0% of it is being used for overhead/administration costs? Or rather, who pays for this organization to operate?

I support this idea, but that just seems like a strange claim when trying to contrast yourselves with the Red Cross as a general aid organization.

Please do give money to help people recover from this earthquake and other disasters.

We're a lean organization. We have a few paid staff who work for reasonable salaries. Our executive director takes a $0 salary. We solicit donations year round to help cover our operating expenses and those expenses are largely covered by a few private donors who appreciate what we do. When there is an event like this and we're fundraising for that event... 100% goes to the event.

Thanks for the clarification.

Supplies? Food? Shelter? I'm guessing everything else except for the wages of the volunteers since, they are volunteers.

"100% of donations made to the Red Cross right now will not end up in Haiti"

If you mean that "Not 100% of donations made to the Red Cross right now will end up in Haiti", you should say so. Phrasing it the way that you did is pretty misleading.

Yes I meant, NOT 100% will end up in Haiti. Not 0% will end up in Haiti.

It was quite clear to me.

And probably clear to anyone taking the quote in context.

i've mentioned this in the other post, but

I'm pretty sure the merits of the redcross are irrelevant, as the fund was specifically created to Haitian relief. Red cross is merely acting as a vehicle through one can donate.

from the redcross page: The public can also help by texting “Haiti” to 90999 to send a $10 donation to the Red Cross, through an effort backed by the U.S. State Department. Funds will go to support American Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti.

I can't confirm this, but quotes from state.gov such as this one, led me to this conclusion:

Anyone wishing to donate or provide assistance in Haiti following the devastating earthquake that struck near Port au Prince on Jan 12, 2010, is asked to contact the Center for International Disaster Information. The Center, operated under a grant from the United States Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and initial support from IBM, has become a valuable resource to the public, as well as US government agencies, foreign embassies and international corporations. CIDI has established a dedicated page to coordinate Haiti support at: http://www.cidi.org/incident/haiti-10a/*

You can also text "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill. Or you can go online to organizations like the Red Cross and Mercy Corps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts. I'm pretty sure this entire discussion of the merits of the redcross is irrelevant, as the fund was specifically created to Haitian relief.

Is HODR listed on Charity Navigator (I can't seem to find it)?

That's for "Hands On Network" in Georgia, URL http://www.handsonnetwork.org/ which is almost certainly unrelated.

I did some brief research on hodr.org ... the Exec Dir is a tech/bus exec in MA. Seems like a solid organization, but I didn't seem them on Charity Navigator.


Charity Navigator and other similar services require 4 years of audited financials... we just finished our 4th year and are working on getting our final financial papers in. You can find us on the BBB and http://bit.ly/GuideStar_HODR

Thanks for the info. Never heard of you guys before. Done.

Another way to help is avoid buying stuff that happens to be made in Haiti by semi-slave haitians in infrahuman conditions so you can save some cents, you can help Haiti not only when they have an earthquake!

Economic embargoes on their own never help developing countries develop faster. If I have milk and you have cookies and we trade freely, we can both be better off.

If you decide not to trade with me because you think I worked too hard or had to get up too early to get that milk, neither of us is better off. Even worse is when you decide not to trade with me because someone else told you not to, for my own good.

Agree, but in your example you and me would be corporations (probably run by big countries), and not the actual haitians

Don't make assumptions about screen size. Your post is only about 900px tall and 1500px wide at the default font size.

Hey Darius,

I'm leading a trip to Haiti Feb 19-23... care to join :)



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