Early last week the country was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, leaving an estimated 200,000 people dead in its wake. That figure is rising daily, and more than 3 million people have been affected so far -- the country's population is just 9 million. Those estimates are significant enough on their own, but when we consider that the country is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, the impact is overwhelming.

It will take a long time for Haitians to get back to a normal standard of living, and some of what was lost in the rubble can never be replaced, but our donations can help them get medical attention, food, water and shelter that they so desperately need right now.

Since the earthquake, many have offered help, both financially and physically. So many of us want to do as much as we can to get aid to those in need. There are many ways to help, and technological advances make it possible to make a donation just by sending a text message. It's really that simple.

Below are some of the ways to help, along with some events in the area designed to raise money and obtain supplies for victims and emergency responders who will be traveling to Haiti in the coming months.

Also, please pay attention to events listed in this paper, as we will be updating you with the many different ways you can help. If you are hosting a fund-raising event, please send your information to wnews@bcnnew.com, and we will be happy to list your event in our paper.

In your fervor to give, please be on the lookout for scams. Unfortunately people use tragedies like this to their own advantage, when both the givers and receivers are at their most vulnerable. Westporters likely remember the fund-raising scam that hit town shortly after the tsunami hit Thailand in 2004. It's unbelievable that people would do that, but it's a sad reality. It happened again in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Please make sure you only donate your money to reputable organizations or to people who you know will handle your money ethically and responsibly.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell's office offered the following tips to protect your donation:

"¢ Do not follow unsolicited Web links or attachments in e-mail messages.

"¢ Maintain up-to-date antivirus software.

"¢ Review the Federal Trade Commission's Charity Checklist.

"¢ Verify the legitimacy of the e-mail by contacting the organization directly through a trusted contact number. Trusted contact information can be found on the Better Business Bureau National Charity Report Index.

Rell is also urging the public to contact the state Department of Consumer Protection's Public Charities Unit (860) 808-5030 with questions about charities. The state's Web site -- www.ct.gov -- has a link to reputable relief organizations and other resources

How you can help

Lucy Mele from Fairfield is raising money for Haiti Lumiere De Demain Inc., a local organization run by Louis Elneus, of Haiti, that has worked for years to promote literacy and provide educational opportunities for Hatian children. For informationon Mele's efforts, visit www.firstgiving.com/lucymele. FirstGiving enables individuals to raise money online for their favorite nonprofit organizations. Call (617) 591-2121 for more information

The Bank of Fairfield is collecting monetary donations at both bank branches for Hope for Haiti, an organization that is providing food, supplies and medical assistance to those in need in Haiti. The organization was founded in 1990. For continuous updates, follow Hope for Haiti on Twitter at @HopeforHaitiFL, or via the organization's Web site www.hopeforhaiti.com. The Bank of Fairfield is located at 2248 Black Rock Turnpike and 2150 Post Road, Fairfield.

According to the United Nations Association of the United States of America, there are many worthy nonprofit groups working toward helping Haiti right now, including: the World Food Program, https://www.wfp.org/donate/haiti; UNICEF, www.supportunicef.org; The World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization, www.pahef.org; and Central Emergency Response Fund, http://ochaonline.un.org.

The Red Cross has its usual method of taking donations, via phone, mail and Web (800-REDCROSS; donations to the International Response Fund can also be sent to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013; or on the Web at www.ctredcross.org), but people may also donate by texting 90999. You will receive a text back asking to confirm the donation of $10, to which you reply, "yes." You will see the charge on your phone bill. It is as easy as it sounds.

On Jan. 30, from 5 to 8:30 p.m., local residents can enjoy the musical talents of Band Together at the Fairfield Theatre Company (FTC) while also benefiting those impacted by the tragedy of the Haitian earthquake. Connecticut State Rep. Tony Hwang; Miles Marek, executive director of FTC; and co-founders of Band Together, Jerry Vigorito and Rob Fried, will host an awareness concert to raise much needed money for the American Red Cross Haitian Earthquake Relief, at the Fairfield Theatre Company in downtown Fairfield. All proceeds will go to Haitian relief. Cost is $20 per patron. Contact FTC box office at 203-259-1036 or visit www.fairfieldtheatre.org for more information. Donations may also be sent to Hwang -- call him at 203-255-5555.

Save the Children, based in Westport, is also joining the efforts, and in addition to delivering food and essential medical supplies will be sending volunteers down to the area. To support this group, call (800) 728-3843 or visit www.savethechildren.org. You can also text the word SAVE to 20222 -- $10 will be charged to the cell phone account. You can text up to three times from the same cell phone.

Other organizations include: Doctors Without Borders: www.doctorswithoutborders.org; OxFam International: www.oxfam.org; Mercy Corps: www.mercycorps.org; Bethesda Evangelical Mission: www.bemhaiti.org/; and Haitian Ministries for the Diocese of Norwich Inc.: www.haitianministries.org or call 860-848-2237, ext. 206.