Helping Out

As you no doubt have been, our family has been astounded at the magnitude of devastation in Haiti. Because I haven’t been there, and don’t know anyone on the ground, I can’t add anything to what you’ve already read or seen about what’s going on in Port-au-Prince. But I would like to share this brief anecdote:
Yesterday morning, I was at the customer service desk at a Whole Foods in Ann Arbor; “Whole Paycheck Market” isn’t exactly my shopping destination of choice, but there is precisely one kind of formula (lactose free, soy free, and free of high fructose corn syrup) that the recently-adopted Yeoman Farm Baby can consume…and, as you might guess, there is exactly one place around here that sells it. [As a quick aside: YFB is thriving on that formula, and at a recent visit our pediatrician told Mrs Yeoman Farmer “Whatever you’ve been doing — keep doing it.”] Anyway, we placed a special order for a case of the stuff, which entitled us to an excellent discount.
As I was waiting for the clerk to bring my case of formula out from the stockroom, a woman entered the store and went straight to the customer service desk. She explained to the manager that she wanted to make a donation to Haitian earthquake relief, but that the Red Cross had told her it would take weeks for them to process all the online donations they’ve been receiving. She’d heard that Whole Foods had a program where you could donate money for Haiti right at the register, upon checkout, by adding some amount to your total bill. Her question: was it possible to simply make a donation, without making a purchase? And would that donation be processed immediately?
“Absolutely,” the manager replied, and rang her $25 donation up as a “sale” right there on the same register she used to collect payment on my case of baby formula. She explained to the woman that donations in this region go to an excellent organization called AmeriCares, and that the money would be available to them the next day. After making payment, the woman thanked the manager and left the store.
I didn’t say anything to the manager or to the woman who made the donation, but I called Mrs Yeoman Farmer as soon as I got back to the car. Both of us were nearly in tears, and only partly because of the depth of this particular woman’s generosity (and the fact that she’d made a special trip to Whole Foods just to make a donation). It was something much more than that: the fact that Americans are such a generous people, and so quick to help, that even in the depths of a severe economic recession…the Red Cross needs weeks to process all the donations they are receiving. What an amazing country this is! Is there any other place in the world where people open their hearts (and their wallets) so spontaneously in the wake of tragedy?
I couldn’t help remembering the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when it seemed that half the country was lining up to donate blood. If memory serves, the Red Cross and other organizations received so much donated blood, and there were (unfortunately) so few survivors in NYC who could use it, they actually put out a statement discouraging additional blood donations; they simply couldn’t use all they’d received before it would go bad.
Anyway, I mention this because I may have some readers out there who are still wondering what they can do to help (and have been discouraged by reported backlogs at the Red Cross). Mrs Yeoman Farmer and I would like to suggest two outstanding charities, to whom we have contributed in the past:
Food for the Poor, Inc is an absolutely terrific organization. Their primary focus is on providing “goods in kind” to those in third world nations. We especially like them because they provide the means that impoverished people can use to support themselves, rather than just giving food that is consumed once. (Think “teaching a man to fish” rather than just giving him a fish; these folks supply the fishing poles.) Their Gift Catalog is lots of fun to browse; you can donate $90 to provide a goat to a family, or $205 to provide a water pump…or any number of other amounts, to supply any number of other things a family could use to climb out of poverty. I’m not sure exactly how the funds from their Haitian special appeal will be deployed (how many goats and how many water pumps, or whatever), but we trust that the contribution we made to that appeal earlier this week will be put to the best possible use. And, interestingly, Food for the Poor is the charity to which Whole Foods will be forwarding customer contributions made in certain other regions.
The Catholic Medical Mission Board is another organization we have helped for many years. Their mission is to “work collaboratively to provide quality healthcare programs and services, without discrimination, to people in need around the world.” The only reason we didn’t respond to their Haitian appeal is that Food for the Poor contacted us first and we’d already given all we could give. But if you’d like to make a donation that you know will go directly toward treating those injured in the quake, you cannot go wrong with this organization. And, according to their website, a generous donor has agreed to match any donation up to a total of $50,000. So, donate to them and your money will go twice as far.
This afternoon, as we were watching news footage from Haiti, Homeschooled Farm Girl was waxing philosophical. “I sort of wish I was there,” she said. “And I’m sort of glad that I’m here. Do you know what I mean?”
“No,” I replied. “Tell me about it.”
“I mean,” she continued, “If I was there I could help all those people.”
I explained that ten year old girls couldn’t do much to help. They needed big strong men to clear rubble. And she would probably get sick if she went to Haiti.
“But I’m strong!” she reminded me. “I can milk a goat! And I could probably milk a cow.”
“Yes, you are strong,” I smiled, and decided to play along. “Maybe you could go to Haiti, and take some of our goats with you? And milk them for the people down there?”
“Oh, yes!” she replied, her face lighting up. “I could take Button, and Marigold [two of our milking does]. And maybe I could take Calico [a barn cat] and Peaches [a kitten living in the basement of our house] with me, too.”
“The goats would be good,” I told her, “But why take cats with you? They wouldn’t do much, would they?”
“No,” she admitted, but then explained her thinking: “But some people down there might like cats.”
Yes, indeed. I bet a lot of people down there in Haiti like cats, and are sad that their cats have been crushed by falling buildings.
Too bad my little Cat Girl can’t go and comfort them all…