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Haiti relief effort options are plentiful in San Diego

It’s one of the sad paradoxes in life. Most often, it takes a tragedy to illustrate the tremendous compassion and love that we, as humans, are capable of. The devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake that rocked the poverty-stricken Caribbean island of Haiti on Tuesday has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and has left more than 100,000 dead.

The need for aid is very real. It is very urgent. Fortunately, for those wanting to contribute, it is also very doable. Like the Southeast Asian tsunami in 2003 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 before it, San Diego has shown itself to be a city that cares.

Dozens of organizations have led the charge for Haiti in efforts to help rebuild and restore. We’ll profile a few:

Project Concern: The international non-profit health and humanitarian aid organization acted quickly to assist in the relief effort. They have worked tirelessly to deliver hygiene kits and other emergency supplies, medicines and medical equipment to those most affected. They are taking mostly cash donations now, as travel has become increasingly difficult, making accessibility of supply planes to and from the island limited. Click here to donate.

Plant With Purpose: Plant With Purpose, a San Diego-based nonprofit working internationally to reverse poverty and deforestation among the rural poor, learned Wednesday that staff stationed in Haiti weren’t harmed in the catastrophic earthquake in the Caribbean country.

Guy Paraison, program director for the agency, reported via e-mail that while an Episcopalian school, church and guest house in its headquarters in the community of Gran Colline were severely damaged, the Plant With Purpose office still stands unharmed and the workers there are all uninjured.

Plant With Purpose has worked in Haiti since 1997 to eradicate poverty through reforestation efforts, soil conservation, and community saving-and-loan groups. After the devastating hurricanes of 2008, Plant With Purpose was able to reestablish farms for 2,000 Haitian families who lost their homes, crops and stability, according to executive director Scott Sabin. Click here to donate.

Salvation Army San Diego: The Salvation Army is preparing to send more than 44,000 lbs. of pre-packaged emergency rations to the country and is working with other agencies to identify appropriate transportation for the food. Critical needs in Haiti include bottled water, medical teams with supplies and food. No timetable has been set for the arrival of these goods because assessment teams have been unable to reach the country to arrange for these shipments.

At this time, as supplies and relief personnel are mobilized, monetary donations are most important. Click here to donate.

Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial counties: The Red Cross’s Web site is prompting people wanting to donate to Haiti to do so by designating “International Disaster Relief Fund” on the credit card payment page. You can also donate by calling the local number, (858) 309-1200.

International Relief Teams: This local non-profit is dedicated to helping mobilize medical and non-medical volunteers to assist victims of disasters and abject poverty worldwide. They are seeking donations that will be used for medical supplies, relief supplies, medicine, and volunteer support. Click here to donate, or call (619) 284-7979. Checks can be made out to International Relief Teams, 4560 Alvarado Canyon Road, Suite 2G, San Diego, CA 92120-4309

Guy Paraison, program director for the agency, reported via e-mail that while an Episcopalian school, church and guest house in its headquarters in the community of Gran Colline were severely damaged, the Plant With Purpose office still stands unharmed and the workers there are all uninjured.

Plant With Purpose has worked in Haiti since 1997 to eradicate poverty through reforestation efforts, soil conservation, and community saving-and-loan groups. After the devastating hurricanes of 2008, Plant With Purpose was able to reestablish farms for 2,000 Haitian families who lost their homes, crops and stability, according to executive director Scott Sabin. Click here to donate.

Salvation Army San Diego: The Salvation Army is preparing to send more than 44,000 lbs. of pre-packaged emergency rations to the country and is working with other agencies to identify appropriate transportation for the food. Critical needs in Haiti include bottled water, medical teams with supplies and food. No timetable has been set for the arrival of these goods because assessment teams have been unable to reach the country to arrange for these shipments.

At this time, as supplies and relief personnel are mobilized, monetary donations are most important. Click here to donate.

Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial counties: The Red Cross’s Web site is prompting people wanting to donate to Haiti to do so by designating “International Disaster Relief Fund” on the credit card payment page. You can also donate by calling the local number, (858) 309-1200.

International Relief Teams: This local non-profit is dedicated to helping mobilize medical and non-medical volunteers to assist victims of disasters and abject poverty worldwide. They are seeking donations that will be used for medical supplies, relief supplies, medicine, and volunteer support. Click here to donate, or call (619) 284-7979. Checks can be made out to International Relief Teams, 4560 Alvarado Canyon Road, Suite 2G, San Diego, CA 92120-4309.

Here are some other options for donations:

Catholic Relief Services has approximately 340 staffers in Haiti. CRS is offering food and other aid to help families affected by the earthquake.

Americares, a non-profit disaster relief organization, delivers medicine, medical supplies and aid to people in crisis around the world. Donations will go toward medication and supplies as well as other expenses for providing that medical aid.

– InterAction, a coalition of U.S.-based international non-governmental organizations, has a list of agencies responding and how to donate to them. Find it here.

– To donate $10 to the American Red Cross, text Haiti to 90999. The amount will be added to your next phone bill.

– To find out how to help the International Rescue Committee, visit www.theIRC.org or call toll free, 1-(877) REFUGEE.

– In a statement Tuesday, National Nurses United Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro said the organization is calling on nurses throughout the U.S. to join in this critical effort. Through the Registered Nurse Response Network, the organization says it hopes to send nurses to provide emergency short term and long term medical support as it has in previous major disasters. San Diego-based nurses who wish to volunteer can sign up at the NNU Web site.

Celebrities join the cause

– Wyclef Jean, one of Haiti’s most famous natives, arrived to the island yesterday. He has encouraged people to use the power and immediacy of mobile technology to assist. You can donate $5 to Wyclef Jean’s Haitian Yele charity, text 501501. The money will be added to your next phone bill.

– Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie donated $1 million to the Doctors Without Borders relief fund.

– According to reports, George Clooney is planning a telethon for Haiti relief. The benefit will air on Friday, Jan. 22 on MTV.

Beware donation scams

Of course, with all of the charitable goodwill and monetary contributions being made after a tragedy like the earthquake, scammers come out of the woodwork with regularity.

It’s wonderful to give, but you should be cautious on just whom you are giving money to.

Lynn Stuart, a reporter with San Diego 6, and Maryann Castronovo, an SDNN columnist, contributed to this story.