Think of natural disasters, and images of hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes come to mind. Events such as Hurricanes Mitch (1998) and Katrina (2005), the tsunami of American Samoa (2009), and the earthquake that hit Haiti this past January 12 forever change the world. In each of these instances, hundreds to tens of thousands of people lost their lives or were displaced. Of those affected, many were disabled children.
One of the poorest populations in the Americas even prior to the earthquake, Haitians do not have the resources readily available to care for their thousands of disabled children. Many of these children were left on the streets or abandoned at nearby clinics, some of which also had less-than-ideal resources to support them.
Now, with reports of 200,000 Haitians dead and approximately 3.5 million affected by the recent earthquake, it will be even more difficult to care for those who cannot care for themselves. Those still living are relying on the generosity and assistance of others.
With this overwhelming catastrophe, it can be difficult to determine the best way to lend a helping hand to the specific disabled youth population. Many Eastern Iowans will not be able to physically make their way to Haiti. So, what can be done to help from home?
The simple answer is "donate." In addition to established organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, UNICEF USA, Doctors Without Borders, and Mercy Corps, multitudes of relief teams are being formed to come to the aid of those most in need.
According to a report by New England Cable News, many disabled youth were found in harm’s way. For example, Wings of Hope, a home for 35 abandoned and severely disabled children, was left unable to be occupied when the building split in half. The staff members have now moved the children to a one-room location, too small for all to remain. These children are in need of assistance. To donate directly to this cause, visit HeartsWithHaiti.org.
At a critical time such as this, the need is great. Thankfully, there are vast opportunities to donate. Charities abound and hearts are open. Open your heart and give to those in greatest need.