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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora