News / Americas

New Technology Boosts Aid for Haiti Relief Effort

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In the wake of Haiti's devastating earthquake last week, people around the world are being inundated with new ways to donate money for disaster relief.  And despite the international economic crisis, many have been quick to give. 

On the way to work this morning, many Americans stopped at their local Starbucks shop for their first cup of coffee.  When they stepped up to pay, cashiers asked whether they would like to add a donation for Haiti onto their bills. 

When people reached their offices, a good number found e-mails from their companies pledging to match employee contributions for relief efforts. 

This afternoon, many people signed onto their favorite Internet social networking site.  There, they were flooded with messages from friends about so-called "text to give" programs. 

Opportunities to give to Haiti relief are seemingly everywhere.  And instead of pulling out their wallets, many Americans are using their cell phones to help.  Mobile phone donations quickly are becoming the most popular way to get involved.  By texting a specific word to a five- or six-digit telephone number, people can contribute $5 or $10  to Haiti relief efforts. 

Shannon Sprouse of Washington, D.C. praises the convenience of her recent mobile telephone donation to Yele Haiti, a relief and recovery organization started by Haitian-born U.S. rap artist Wyclef Jean.   "This was my first time using text to make a donation and I thought it was so easy.  And I would really encourage other people to do the same thing," she said.

Yele Haiti has raised more than $1 million through mobile phone donations.  The only organization to have taken in more money through text messaging is the American Red Cross, with mobile phone contributions exceeding $ 22 million since the January 12 quake. 

Although text message contributions for relief efforts gained popularity in Europe after the South Asian tsunami in 2004, the idea is only now taking hold in the United States.

Sprouse says she thinks the ease of the cell phone campaign will reach a broad range of people, including those who might not otherwise get involved.   "Everyone uses their cell phones now; everyone has access to texting for the most part.  And it's just a really easy and convenient way to make a difference," she said.

Experts say that if the pace of mobile phone donations continues, it could permanently change the way people contribute to charities and disaster relief.

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