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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs