It’s hard to miss the aid commercials from the First Lady, television networks and other companies and non-profits. Relief for Haiti is pouring in from around the globe.
On Jan. 12, a massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake shattered one of the world’s poorest nations, where 78 percent of its citizens live on less than $2 a day. The quake’s epicenter was only 15 miles away from Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Houses, schools, places of worship, hospitals, the nation’s parliament, presidential palace, the National Cathedral and even the UN headquarters there — all flattened.
It is in times like these when all differences of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation and gender-identity disappear and the citizens of the world band together to bring comfort, healing and assistance to folks we might not have ever thought of before. All of a sudden, Haiti doesn’t seem like a world away — the people there have become like our next door neighbors, family and friends.
It seems every company and non-profit is working to gather donations or writing big checks toward the relief effort. The big names all come to mind — the American Red Cross, UNICEF, Save the Children. But smaller, LGBT non-profits and companies are stepping up to the plate, too. In South Florida’s large Haitian-American communities, local LGBT leaders are working with the Dade Community
Foundation to set up a fund to collect local LGBT community donations and then send them to relief organizations working in Haiti.
Nationally, the Rainbow World Fund is redirecting thousands of dollars it already had pledged to Haiti. The Rainbow World Fund, an all-volunteer international relief and aid organization based in San Francisco, is entirely staffed by folks from the LGBT and straight ally communities. Their work globally helped to bring awareness of LGBT issues to nations across the world. Even before disaster struck in Haiti, the Rainbow World Fund had pledged $35,000 toward community work there. The Fund is now directing that money toward relief efforts and counting on LGBT folks across the nation to help raise more funds. You can donate to the Rainbow World Fund online: rainbowfund.org/donate/.
In addition, the owners of gay cruise lines Atlantis Events, RSVP and Olivia Cruises have partnered with the American Red Cross to set up a dedicated fund for contributions from the LGBT community. The companies have pledged a total of $22,500 in matching funds. You can donate through the LGBT Red Cross fund at american.redcross.org/LGBT-pub.
Although I’m not aware of any local LGBT organizations creating relief funds, there are still ways our LGBT Carolinas communities can get involved and help Haiti. Individuals could host small house parties and ask folks to bring $10, $20 or $30. The collected funds could then be bundled together and sent off to the Rainbow World Fund or the Red Cross’ LGBT fund. Perhaps leaders of local LGBT non-profits might consider donating a portion of their next events proceeds to one of the two funds. Or, LGBT groups with offices — like the Charlotte Gay & Lesbian Center or the state’s several AIDS service organizations — might try placing a donation box specifically for relief efforts in their lobbies or reception areas. Gay bars and clubs could set out a “Haiti Tip Jar” on the bar or at the door.
The LGBT community’s involvement in Haitian relief efforts is a chance for us to reach out and touch the lives of the millions affected by this disaster. It is also a chance for us to build bridges in a nation where LGBT citizens are routinely discriminated against, homosexuality and gender-variance are seen as taboo and immoral and where HIV/AIDS infection rates range from as low as four percent to as high as 13 percent in some rural communities.
The efforts to rebuild Haiti won’t be cheap. They won’t be easy. But for just a few dollars, you can make a difference. : :