On 12 January 2010, a major earthquake struck Haiti, one of the poorest nations on the planet. As I watched the horrifying events unfold and reflected on how soon in the new decade thousands of people's lives had been destroyed, it was easy to feel overwhelmed. I know I did.
But then a week after the quake, one of my closest friends updated his Facebook status to say he was off to Haiti. As a qualified Boeing 747 pilot he had volunteered to fly a plane full of relief supplies from Paris to Haiti. He told me afterwards than nothing could have prepared him for the experience. When the plane finally was allowed to land, there were no steps up to the cockpit level – which was a good thing because the plane was literally stormed by desperate people. While the cargo doors at the back were opened and guarded by troops so that the supplies could be offloaded, the pilots were left looking at a sea of desperate and pleading faces below them. In the end, they opened the passenger doors and threw everything they could to the people below – the plane's first aid kits, blankets, toilet paper, and even bottles of water and food meant for the crew. He said he had never seen such desperation and hopes never to do so again.
He also told me that the air traffic controllers were operating a strict priority landing system. The operators of each plane had to fax the ATCs proof of what cargo a plane was carrying. Planes carrying priority items got to land first. My friend's plane was in a holding pattern for 2 hours – until the cargo manifest came through and showed they were carrying water. Then they were instantly told to land.
Touched by this first-hand account of the acute need for water and driven by the need not to stand idly by, I contacted my friends Val and Giz and suggested that I co-ordinate a charity event together with BloggerAid – Changing the Face of Famine (BA-CFF). The biggest hurdle was choosing the right charity with an excellent reputation where we would be assured that any funds we raised would go directly to Haiti.
The charity beneficiary we have selected is Concern Worldwide. This non-governmental international humanitarian organisation founded in 1968 works around the world to reduce suffering and work towards the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty in the world's poorest countries. Concern International have been working in Haiti since 1994 and had over 100 staff members on the ground when the earthquake struck. Despite losing several team memers in the tragedy, they have been quick to act with distribution of supplies, including 135,000 litres of water per day during the first 2 weeks after the quake.
So from Sunday, February 21 till Sunday, February 28th March 7th, BA-CFF will be running H2Ope for Haiti, an online raffle to raise funds for Concern Worldwide's relief effort in Haiti. For full details and how you can help please visit BA-CFF as well as the H2Ope for Haiti JustGiving donation page. Justgiving will pay all the money raised directly to Concern Worldwide, less their processing fee, and donations can be made via international debit or credit cards as well as Paypal. Once the raffle goes live on 21 February, a list of prizes will be available on my site and the BA-CFF site and you can start buying tickets (£6.50 or $10 each)! The prizes will have international appeal and the generous donors will ship anywhere – or if you like you can just make a donation without buying a raffle ticket.
We need all the promotion we can get, so if you have a blog or Facebook/Twitter account it would be wonderful if you could mention this event to your readers on Sunday. If you would like to donate a prize, please contact me at emailcooksister AT googlemail DOT com by the end of this week to discuss.