Olivia cruise company joins in a historic LGBT effort for Haiti. An earthquake that measured 7.0 on the Richter scale hit Haiti on January 12, causing significant damage to Port-au-Prince. The United Nations reports that up to half of Port-au-Prince is damaged, and according to the Red Cross, at least 50,000 people may have died. Olivia has joined with two other LGBT cruise companies to donate money to the region.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. In Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital and its largest city, there are not only thousands of people dead and businesses destroyed, but thousands of people with no homes, in fear of aftershocks, afraid to go indoors and living on the streets. Those with no jobs and little hope are left in even more despair. Men, women and children roam the area hungry. Many have not had a meal since the quake hit.
In collaboration with the Red Cross, gay and lesbian cruise companies Atlantis Events, Olivia and RSVP Vacations have joined forces to raise money for Haiti. Last October, I spent a week on an Olivia cruise to Key West, Guatemala, Belize and Cozumel. I met the owner of Olivia, Judy Dlugacz, on that cruise, and I am pleased to see that she has joined in this effort.
According to their press release, Atlantis Events and RSVP Vacations have pledged $15,000 in matching contributions, and Olivia has pledged an additional $7,500 for a total of $22,500. Judy is also offering some free cruises to women who contribute $7,500 or more. Once funds are received, the Red Cross will mark the funds as contributions from LGBT Americans. Says Judy Dlugacz, "It is important that as LGBT Americans, we come together to show our community's solidarity and support for those living through this unimaginable disaster." All LGBT individuals and organizations are urged to contribute and provide matching funds when possible.
The American Red Cross, an emergency response organization, was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton. It is the organization that the world looks to for helping in disaster situations, such as the earthquake in Haiti. Anytime there is a disaster, there will be organizations that pretend to be legitimate and that are actually scams. Many of these bogus organizations will send you emails asking for money. Therefore, you need to be careful. However, the American Red Cross is a legitimate disaster relief organization. Says scam expert Christine Durst, CEO of Staffcentrix, to CNN, "Of course, the first thing to do is look for the known organizations, those that have a proven track record. For example, the Red Cross, The United Way, The International Medical Corps."
Gays and lesbians struggle with homophobia and discrimination, but some accuse the LGBT community of being insular. This is an erroneous view that is best challenged by example. The amount of death, suffering and damage in a poor region that has been hit by disaster before, is beyond what most Americans have ever seen. There is a world wide outpouring of support, and the LGBT community can contribute significantly to this support.
LGBT individuals and organizations, please send your donations to: LGBT Americans for Earthquake Relief in Haiti American Red Cross Online Donation Site.
Edith M. Lederer, UN chief says up to half of Port-au-Prince damaged, The Examiner
50,000 may have died in Haiti quake: Red Cross, CTV News
Owners of Gay and Lesbian Cruise Companies Raise Money for Earthquake Relief in Haiti, PR Newswire
Haiti Earthquake; Day 5, Transcript CNN