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.



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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs