Using Social Media to Help In Haiti…

by Elizabeth Cooper-Golden

in Huntsville Community Stuff

While the pressing pressures of what we consider ‘normal’ daily life propels us forward minute by minute, I am sure that your own family has taken pause at the great human tragedy that now faces one of  our neighbors to the east in the Caribbean Island of Haiti.

While attempting to formulate our own family’s response, one of our Internet colleagues, Tom Vanderwell, author of Straight Talk About Mortgages,  shared with one of  our regular Internet communities his own personal experience over the last 48 hours, since such a powerful earthquake struck one of the poorest nations on the planet, in an area where such strong earthquakes are so completely RARE.

Tom asked the community to share his post locally in an attempt to motivate all of us, many of whom are far more fortunate than our Caribbean Neighbors, to actually make an effort to help, despite our own varying economic circumstances because this particular crisis warrants our personal attention. Yes, Tom does have a personal connection to this tragedy and his story follows unedited:

For the last 22 hours and 15 minutes (with the exception of a 2 1/2 hour nap around 4:00 this morning,) I’ve been using social media to help in Haiti.

As many of you know, my wife and I adopted our two youngest children from Haiti in the summer of 2004 and we have remained very involved with the orphanage that we adopted them from, God’s Littlest Angels, which is in Petionville Haiti. I’ve been on the Board of Directors for the orphanage since 2006 and every year since 2003 (with the exception of 2005), at least one of our family has been back down there on a mission trip to help out. My 20 year old has decided to devote her life to third world medical missions, almost certainly in Haiti.

Throughout those experiences, I’ve developed a pretty extensive network of people around, literally, the world who have connections to Haiti. Most of those are Facebook Friends. In addition to that, I’ve developed a pretty extensive network of online friends in the real estate and lending communities literally all across the country. If you consider Seattle to Miami to be all across the country, I think I’ve got it covered. Yesterday, those two worlds met and it’s been truly a mind-blowing experience. Let me explain:

At 5:15 pm, I got a tweet across tweetdeck that was from @latimes (I use that as one of my news sources). It talked about a massive earthquake in Haiti, near Port Au Prince. I immediately hopped on AIM and talked to God’s Littlest Angels stateside coordinator and confirmed that the orphanage was affected but that the damage appeared minor and everyone was safe.

I then spent the next several hours e-mailing, face-booking, twittering and IM’ng with people all over the world trying to connect people, find out what’s going on, reassure adoptive parents who are panicking because their kids are down there and heck just help.

One of the other people who I follow on twitter is @anncurry. Ever watch the Today Show on NBC? Yeah, that Ann Curry. Well, she tweeted that they were trying to get in touch with anyone who speaks English and is on the ground in the earthquake zone. That started a series of DM’s, IM’s and so forth and eventually, I was able to connect people from NBC with Dixie Bickel, the orphanage director at God’s Littlest Angels.

In addition to that, an adoptive mom in Oregon and I connected yesterday about this all. Guess what she does for a living? Yep, she’s in charge of utilizing social media for their business. She and I ended up connecting and actually had a phone conversation at around 1:00 this morning (my time, not her time). We then worked up a way to make a difference in Haiti. We’ve kicked off the God’s Littlest Angels 1000 x 1000 Campaign.

Here’s what we’re doing:

  • We want 1000 people around the world.
  • To each commit to raising at least $1,000.
  • That means that each of them would need to ask 10 people to donate $100.

I just got done talking with a local radio station and they asked me, “What is the biggest concern that you have with the orphanage right now? We’ve got three:

  1. Safety – so far everyone at the orphanage is safe, but staff members have lost family members in the earthquake.
  2. Adequate supplies of food, medicine and fuel for the generator. Without fuel, we have no electricity. Without electricity, sick babies die. It’s not an over statement, it’s a fact of life in a 4th world country.
  3. With 160 kids currently at the orphanage, we are “over capacity.” How are we going to handle it when a substantial number of new orphans show up at the gate within the next week or two? Realistically, given the estimates of death tolls, another 50 to 100 orphans at the gate of the orphanage is a potential outcome.

I had previously set a blog to attempt to spread the word about what God’s Littlest Angels is doing for the kids in Haiti. You can find it at www.godslittlestangelsinhaiti.org. We’ve started to use it more for raising awareness of what’s happening and the utter devastation in Haiti.

Since we started last night, a couple of things have happened at www.godslittlestangelsinhaiti.org:

  • Traffic is up by about 1000% (that’s not a misprint).
  • Donations are doubling approximately every three hours.
  • The staff in Haiti is seeing and hearing that and is greatly encouraged because they know that people back in the states are caring about them.

Now I’ve got a challenge for you. Every single one of the readers of this blog. I’d be very grateful if you could take up the challenge and use the devastation of the country of Haiti as an opportunity to show that Social Media can be used for the good of the downtrodden, not just for fun or profit.

To make it even easier, just click on the widget below and it will take you to paypal where you can do your part to help and encourage others to help.

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