What's needed most in Haiti right now

Haiti, November 22, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps is a team of 3,700 world-class-professionals capably trained to provide relief in the most desperate situations, like continuing crises in Haiti. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

I was thinking this week about what makes Mercy Corps so special. It’s not the colorful photo-splashed website where I browse for reports from the forty countries where Mercy Corps works. It’s not the Facebook page or the Mercy Corps Blog where I read stories of people facing daily challenges with hope and determination. It’s not even the climate of customer service at Mercy Corps — the fact that there’s always someone to thank me for my support and to answer all my questions (although that is pretty incredible!).

What it really boils down to is this: Mercy Corps is a team of 3,700 world-class-professionals capably trained to provide relief in the most desperate situations. It's a team that works hard every day to make sure my support is utilized for maximum good. These aren’t skill sets that just anyone has. Mercy Corps field staff are equipped to deal with natural disasters, extreme poverty and complex social conflict. In short, they are experts in every sense of the word.

Recently, I had to face a difficult choice. After much thought, a fair amount of tears and some consultation with those close to me, I decided not to travel to Haiti this December. My decision came on the heels of Hurricane Tomas and in the midst of Haiti’s growing cholera epidemic, which has hospitalized 21,000 people and killed 1,200 so far. Many factors were weighed in my decision: health and safety risks, strain on resources in a nation with severely limited infrastructure and the incredible demands facing the organization (Friends of the Orphans) who’ll be hosting the group I would’ve traveled with. But the number one factor in my decision was this: I’m not an expert.

I don’t have any medical skills or disaster relief experience to bring to the people of Haiti. And let’s face it, for all the compassion and good intention I would have brought along, it’s not what Haiti needs. Haiti needs clean water, Haiti needs cholera prevention, Haiti needs stability (none of which would’ve fit neatly into my carry-on suitcase).

Don’t get me wrong — Haiti needs me — just in a different way. Haiti needs me to be aware, to keep hoping, and to never forget. Most of all, Haiti needs me to continue supporting organizations like Mercy Corps, without which, thousands of people would have lacked life-saving support over the last ten months. And you know what? Haiti needs you too! Because every dollar toward relief is a dollar toward clean water which prevents the spread of cholera. And every dollar toward rebuilding is a dollar toward a future where one million Haitians don’t call a tent their “home.”

It’s not just about Haiti, it’s about a better world; a better world Mercy Corps helps make possible every day for the 17 million people they serve. Maybe someday I’ll travel to Haiti, back to Africa or to other places I’ve been longing to go. But for now, I’ll invest my faith and my financial support in the Mercy Corps team. They are the experts after all. And that’s pretty special if you ask me.

*Holly is working to raise $10,000 for Mercy Corps' efforts in Haiti, to make a donation to her fundraiser, please click here.