Residents survey a damaged building following a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Aug. 15. Photographer: Jonathan Alpeyrie/Bloomberg

On Jul. 7, Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated. Six weeks later on Aug. 14, a 7.2 earthquake, more intense than the 2010 quake, struck Haiti. Two days after that, Tropical Depression Grace began passing through the country, bringing torrential rains that caused heavy flooding, including in the southern region, where the latest quake left at least 1,419 people dead.

In the latest blow to Haiti, videos of rain-soaked residents and victims being carried away in beds have gone viral. As film director Luner Eugene watches disaster after disaster hit Haiti from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida he can’t help but wonder if the problems have beaten Haiti too hard, too frequently for the country to rise up.

“Is this the end of Haiti?” Eugene said. “How much more can we take?”

Making matters worse, Eugene wants to donate to aid efforts. But like many members of the diaspora eager to help, he believes that donating to relief efforts for Haiti is risky. Following reports of embezzlement after the 2010 earthquake, many are concerned the monies will go to the administrative overhead of mega charities instead of to Haitians who need the help. 

“I kept asking God ‘What can I do as a Haitian?’ It’s like embedded in my heart,” said Eugene after hearing news of the earthquake. “But I feel hopeless. We feel hopeless because we really don’t know what to do since these organizations have been stealing. And these people [in Haiti] really need the help, it burns my heart [gives me heartache].”

The Red Cross raised almost $1 billion after the 2010 earthquake and only built six houses, according to ProPublica. Within hours of Saturday’s earthquake shaking the country, and their psyches, scores of Haitian-Americans took to social media to urge people not to donate to the Red Cross and other charitable behemoths. 

Too many helping hands, still no trust 

Because of this mistrust and resulting donated aid vacuum, many groups have taken matters into their own hands and launched different relief efforts. Some organizations plan to bring donated supplies and materials to Haiti themselves, while others will send them to other organizations already operating on the ground in the south of Haiti. 

However, the spike in the number of organizations purporting to be collecting money or goods for Haiti has created more chaos and mistrust, Haitian-Americans said.

“It’s getting confusing,” said Rose Valcin, president of the Haitian-American Nurses Association (HANA) of Florida. “Even individuals are doing their own fundraising too on Facebook everywhere. It’s saturated.” 

HANA itself started collecting funds on Sunday, as it has in the past to support Haiti, and plans to start asking for medical supplies too. HANA will send the funds to on-the-ground other organizations like Ayiti Community Trust.

Members of HANA traveled to Port-au-Prince after the 2010 earthquake and they plan to head to the southwestern Haiti in the coming days to care for victims once they can do so safely, Valcin said.

Miami based rapper Elvis Millord, better known as Zoey Dollaz, is part of another disaster relief, Haiti Disaster Relief. It is collecting non-perishable foods, clothes and personal hygiene items, among many goods, at three different locations in Florida. Millord said in an Instagram post that his team and friends will deliver the items to Haiti.

Eugene said he’s considering donating to Haiti Disaster Relief because he trusts Millord.

Another rapper, Jean-Léonard Tout-Puissant, better known as Izolan, posted an Instagram video of himself outside a barbershop in Queens to say he’s collecting medical supplies there. Tout-Puissant later said in the video that he will bring the medical supplies himself from Queens to Haiti on Wednesday. 

FANM, the advocacy agency in Florida, also plans to collect medical supplies and tents starting on Tuesday. It is one of many planning to act as drop-off sites for those who want to donate.  

Attempt to bring order to process 

As the list of organizations to donate to is growing, leaders from the Haitian-American community in Florida held a meeting Monday to evaluate the situation in Haiti so they can act accordingly and be on the same page. More than 40 Haitian-American organizations, including FANM and HANA, took part in the meeting.

They reached a consensus to collect medical equipment, medication and tents but not to collect food, water and clothes because those supplies can be bought in Haiti, said Marleine Bastien, FANM’s executive director.

FANM plans to wire donations to Ayiti Community Trust as well. Bastien vowed to watch over the organizations FANM will transmit donations to to ensure that the resources will be sent to the victims. FANM also plans to give organizations an assessment of the work they will do.

“We don’t want 10,000 different organizations and there’s no accountability,” Bastien said. “We want those who are impacted to be the ones who will receive the funds. We don’t want the same thing from 2010 to happen again. That’s why we didn’t react too fast.”

“Pito nou mize nan wout, nou pote bon nouvel,” Bastien said, citing a Creole proverb that means, ‘Better to be delayed en route, but with good news.’

Over in Haiti, many victims feel that the government hasn’t been doing enough to assist them, so they’re grateful because the diaspora can step in. 

Jean Ronald Jocelyn, Hope For Haiti’s Education Program Director based in Les Cayes, has been sleeping on the roof of a collapsed building that crumbled along with relatives, including two teenagers. For Haitians like him, it’s a comfort to know compatriots abroad care, even if from afar.

“We feel like we’re not alone during this difficult time,” Jocelyn said. “That really gave us the strength to keep fighting. We’re really grateful for the Haitian diaspora, our brothers and sisters from overseas.”

The Haitian Times has developed a list of longstanding organizations that have been fiscally transparent for donors to consider.

Email me at onz@haitiantimes.com
Onz Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and ESNY before joining The Haitian Times. Onz is also a Report for America corps member.