Generous and smart

A disaster has struck Haiti, and many struggle with the best way to give. Generosity is good, but it's better to be generous and smart. Of course, most of the well-known charities have geared up to provide relief in Haiti of all sorts, including medical care, food and shelter, and I've provided a list of a few of those below. However, even in giving, it's good to know where your money goes. If you're considering making a sacrificial and heart-felt donation to people in need, there are still factors to consider. For example, one would prefer to donate to an organization that had a presence in Haiti before the earthquake struck. It's best to donate to an organization large enough to make a substantial difference in this sad crisis, but not so large that your donation gets lost in the shuffle.

It only takes a few minutes to learn a bit about the charities you donate to, how accountable they are with their dollars, the percentage of your donation that goes to direct aid, and even the salaries of an aid organization's CEOs. Even in times of crisis, it's good to donate with your brain attached. Please note that many organizations will be overwhelmed with donations over the next few days, and donations occurring later in the month, will be just as welcome. Below are links to two organizations that thoroughly research charities operating in the United States. Charity Navigator provides info about all aspects of a charity's finances, and the Better Business Bureau Giving Alliance centers more on a charity's financial transparency and accounting practices.

Ellie Light

Bridgeport

Haiti Disaster Relief

On behalf of my family, Grace and I send our heartfelt prayers and thoughts of condolences to the entire country of Haiti and the people across the world affected by the devastation of this earthquake. I applaud the men and women of our private and governmental agencies who are bravely responding to this disaster.

The earthquake affected as many as three million people, collapsed commercial and residential buildings and caused major damages to hospitals and infrastructure throughout the area. The amount of destruction is staggering and the cost of recovery will be immense.

Band Together, Fairfield Theatre Company and I have created a community partnership to raise funds for the American Red Cross Haitian Relief by holding an awareness concert on Jan. 30 at the Fairfield Theatre Company (details listed in editorial above). Please support our humanitarian Haitian Disaster Relief efforts by attending the concert. Our concert will collect funds and donate 100 percent of proceed to assist and help those in Haiti who have lost everything during this incredibly trying time. Please visit the American Red Cross to learn more about what else you can do to help.

Tony Hwang,

State Rep., District 134,

Fairfield

On the ground

I am heading to Haiti this Tuesday with a friend who is an expert at establishing emergency communication systems in disaster zones. I will be aiding with search and recovery and with medical treatment in the more remote villages. I am a certified Wilderness First Responder through SOLO and Wilderness Medicine Associates and have remote disaster relief and logistics experience from time spent executing relief missions in Panama. Any donations would be greatly appreciated. All funds will go to the procurement of medical supplies, water purifiers, food stuffs and to identified effective initiatives on the ground. I am not traveling with a computer as the security situation on the ground is a bit tense, and theft is an issue. Upon my return to the United States on Jan. 30, I will provide photos and a report from the trip.

If you choose to make a donation please make it through Paypal to jesse@pedasi.org (https://cms.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/?cmd=_render-content&content_ID=marketing_us/send_money)

During times of crisis people are always very quick to donate and contribute hard goods for relief efforts. The large relief agencies are phenomenal about collecting the supplies and transporting them to distribution points in disaster zones. In my experience the bottleneck and flaw in the whole system is getting the actual aid and expertise to the people who need it. The major international aid organizations are great for certain things and play a key role, but often are lacking on the grass roots execution level. Additionally these agencies, albeit with the best intentions, show up to different operating environments with an established operational norm that they apply across the board regardless. Every country and every situation requires a custom approach and unfortunately, a pre-pegged system is simply not applicable in all cases. I have seen huge hangers full of supplies in Panama when there were people literally starving but there was no one to simply coordinate and execute the final stage of distribution. I have had the privilege to be a part of, and to watch teams of volunteers not associated with any group or organization simply show up and take the reins to fill in the missing links. This is the position I am seeking to fulfill on a small level in Haiti. It is a new operating environment for me, but I am a social chameleon and have experience working with other Caribbean cultures in disaster environments.

From what I have been told from rescuers on the ground the situation in Haiti is similar. There is no shortage of physical supplies on site, but the distribution is lacking. The relief agencies simply are slow to establish local efficient distribution teams and systems. Our approach is to establish contact directly with local movers and shakers, be it congregation leadership, taxi drivers, or gang leaders. We will search for the people who have the most sway in their respective community and who know what the most immediate needs of the people happen to be. We will then go to work for them, doing all that we can to help them accomplish their tasks. This is more of a blitzkrieg approach but often results in the most efficient distribution of aid. We will then work to connect these community leaders with the appropriate members of the larger organizations in hopes of bridging the gap between aid and need. This is a way for you to contribute in a manner that will put your support directly to use on the ground level. You will be proud of what we can accomplish. I am a young and hungry recent Babson College graduate with a real passion for taking entrepreneurial approaches to helping people in dire situations.

Jesse A Levin,

Archer Group Investments,

Westport