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January 13, 2010


The events in Haiti are unimaginable and horrifying. I know that one thing that often holds people back from giving to relief organizations is the nagging question of governance and stewardship. There are many wonderful national organizations like the American Red Cross, but I thought I’d share information about a couple of great organizations with local connections that may be of interest to you.

I recently learned that the family of two Kenyon college friends started a hospital in Haiti nearly 50 years ago. This hospital – Hopital Albert Schweitzer – was founded by her grandparents, and today their father, Ian Rawson, is the administrator of the hospital. Hopital Albert Schweitzer is 40 miles from Port au Prince, and since much of the infrastructure in PauP was destroyed by the earthquake, this hospital is doing all it can to absorb the need. In a hospital with 80 beds, there are currently more than 500 patients with serious injuries. They are running out of the basics like antibiotics and pain killers. If you’d like to learn more, here is a link to the website: ABC News recently did a piece on the hospital. The man interviewed is the father of my friends (Nicole Rawson who lives in PA and Rachel Rawson who lives here in Cleveland and is a partner at Jones Day). Here is a link to that piece:

MedWish International is a local agency that was founded in 1993 by Dr. Lee Ponsky. As an undergraduate student, Lee had the life-changing opportunity to work as a scrub technician in Nigeria, Africa. It was there that he witnessed firsthand the appalling lack of basic medical supplies and understood the tremendous need for those supplies around the world. From its humble start in Dr. Ponsky's garage to its current location at the Cleveland Clinic Parker Building, located at 17325 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland Ohio, MedWish International has greatly expanded operations, offering more supplies, hope and healing to the poor in developing countries. I had an opportunity to volunteer here once, and was so impressed by the sense of mission and dedication. Here is a link to that website:

The world was and is still in shock after a mega eathquake leveled Haiti last Tuesday. And, immediately people began to donate and charities went into high gear to accept those donations. I also immediately donated to Yele Haiti, founded by musician and native son, Wyclef Jean. I'm feeling good because this is my first donation to Haiti relief. Over the weekend, I see Wyclef crying defending his charity. This is a donor's worst nightmare. The questions began in my head. Did my donation go to the right place? What happened? The website said Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund. I find in the news that Yele Haiti has not spent one dollar on earthquake relief, but is for "second-order" aid for rebuilding for the long term" according the president of the charity. I am glad to be donating to Haiti, but this issue speaks to how important it is for charities to clearly explain what they are collecting for and how donations will be allocated. Anything less than that raises questions and can affect future donations, even if no wrong-doing occurred. The "hint" of scandal is just as bad as actual scandal. No charity can afford either. When a celebrity puts himself out there for his charity, be sure that everything is in order with taxes and credibility. Also, perhaps after meeting all criteria, add a BBB Accredited Charity Symbol to the website. Transparency is essential, especially in a tough economy like today. I will continue to donate to Haiti relief. My next donation will be to UNICEFF. I worked at the United Nations so I know how donations are utilized. I will donate to Yele Haiti again, but this time I will know that my donation is not for earthquake relief per se. Be careful charities. Victims of disaster count on the good reputation of charities, and the celebrity that founded the charity for the services they need.

Ohio Atty General Richard Cordray cautions Ohioans to watch for earthquakes scams:

Here's a post from PhilanTopic that gathers news, resources, relief organizations, social media.

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