News / USA

Americans Find Unique Ways to Help Haiti

Grassroots communities raise money, collect goods

Frank London blows his horn for Haiti Relief at Mehanata, an alternative club in New York.
Frank London blows his horn for Haiti Relief at Mehanata, an alternative club in New York.

Multimedia

Audio

It's late at night at Mehanata, a small Bohemian music and dance club on New York's Lower East Side, where many of the city's ethnic and alternative musicians are gathered to raise money for Haitian relief. It's one of many grassroots events communities across the country are organizing in the wake of Haiti's devastating earthquake.   

Musicians at Mehanata say music is an important element in the relief and recovery effort. "Music has the ability to enliven people's spirits and everyone does what they can," says trumpeter Frank London of the Klezmatics, a Grammy Award-winning Jewish world music ensemble. "And if some people are there digging out bodies and trying to save people, that's great. And if someone else can play a horn and keep people smiling while they're doing that, that's great."

London says that the grassroots support for Haiti in the form of food, clothing, medical and other aid has been both heartfelt and spontaneous among members of New York's creative community.

"Who are 'we' that are coming together in this way at this moment? People are coming together to benefit others," he says. "And in doing so, it benefits us, because it strengthens our community's ties."

A Small Town in New Jersey Gives Footwear

Meanwhile, in Ramsey, New Jersey, about 30 kilometers north of New York City, Louise Van Osten seals another carton of donated gently-used shoes that are bound for Haiti. The franchise outlet she owns and operates, Foot Solutions, is one of about 240 stores throughout the United States that sell footwear for hard-to-fit feet. Van Osten sprang into action when she learned that the franchise headquarters was partnering with a private relief group called, Soles4Souls, to help Haiti's earthquake survivors.    

"It was just so heartbreaking to see all those people displaced and the landscape just totally destroyed," says Van Osten. She says she felt compelled to do something when she noticed that many of the survivors had no shoes. Foot Solutions stores nationwide have collected nearly 2,000 pairs of shoes for Haiti and the donations keep arriving.

New Jersey shoe store owner Louise Van Osten and customer Jill Shobe with a carton of donated used shoes that are bound for Haiti.
New Jersey shoe store owner Louise Van Osten and customer Jill Shobe with a carton of donated used shoes that are bound for Haiti.

 
Longtime customer Jill Shobe came to Van Osten's store to deliver a big shopping bag full of with sandals, sneakers and other footwear she collected from her family and friends. Shobe says shoe donations are only one way her community is doing its part to help out in Haiti. "At our local elementary school, we have a collection happening because our custodian is from Haiti and we're collecting money for his family that is in Haiti," says Shobe. "Also, we're raising money through our church and through the Cub Scouts, everywhere."  


The Internet As a Powerful Organizing Tool

The Internet has made it possible to form new grassroots communities almost instantly, says Rebecca Garrison-Sokoloff of The White Aisle, a small online bridal merchandise business. Ever since the earthquake, she has run a promotion offering to donate the proceeds from the sale of custom wedding invitations and bridal jewelry to Doctors Without Borders, an NGO now working in Haiti.

"The Internet is amazing. When the earthquake hits, I was able to walk into my office, design something quickly, put it on my website within 30 minutes and contact other vendors who have blogs and message boards and have it spread so quickly, getting that immediate response," says Garrison-Sokoloff.

She says that for brides hoping to help, the Haitians who benefit and her own business' bottom line It's a 'win-win' for everybody.

Houses of Worship Seek to Honor God and Others by Giving

Communities of faith have also stepped up to help with musical fundraising benefits and other events.

"We've been taught, since the dawn of our civilization, if there is someone in distress, you help," says Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, a century-old Manhattan institution that emphasizes social justice in its ministry. Hirsch cautions that this is not a time for hand wringing and analysis. "First, save the person in need, lift them up off the ground, out of the rubble. Ask questions later."

Cantor Daniel Singer of Manhattan's Stephen Wise Free Synagogue
Cantor Daniel Singer of Manhattan's Stephen Wise Free Synagogue

Indeed, while the specific gifts each grassroots group has to offer may differ, the underlying message to Haitians, as expressed by Daniel Singer, the synagogue's music director, seems the same. "We want you to know there are people around you who care. We wish the best for you, and help is on the way."  

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid