Tag Archives: Haiti

What I’ve learned from Haiti

As promised I wanted to share with you a few things I’ve learned from my blog postings about Haiti around the idea of social media.

The first is that twitter can be extremely powerful.  The night I posted the first post on Haiti I kept going back to the bit.ly site to check my stats on the link. 

For those of you who don’t know what bit.ly is, here’s a quick low down.  Twitter limits you to 140 characters but as we all know a website link could easily take up all of that, so there are tools that shorten these urls to something more twitter user-friendly.  The great part about bit.ly is that it shortens the URL you’re posting but also tracks how many times that new URL is clicked.  Basically it’s instant stats for you to see if people are really clicking on the link you’ve posted.  That’s powerful stuff or can be.

In the case of the first Haiti post I watched as the clicks increased to over 400 in less than 24 hours.  Think about that for a second.  400 times people clicked on that link.  Sure, some of them didn’t read my post but many did.  That’s a lot more people than none.

So there we are, Lesson #1 Twitter can be extremely powerful if your message is powerful.

Lesson #2 I posted on the first Haiti blog post.  Not everyone on twitter is on Facebook.  Why is this important?  Well, that gets to

Lesson #3 Twitter has the ability to be a far more wide-reaching tool then either email or Facebook when it comes to nonprofits.  Here’s a quote from the article I found just as I was posting this Haiti information:

“The more nonprofits were active on Twitter and tweeted, the more their followers retweeted their tweets which helped grow their Twitter following”.

When I first read this article about how much more traffic nonprofits were getting out of twitter I was quick to think, yes, but are these followers people who care or just spam bots following everyone in hopes of being followed back.  Of course that’s always part of the story, but think about this, if someone is retweeting your message then it’s getting out to a whole group of people you haven’t reached before.  That’s relevant.  That’s important.  That’s powerful.

So my new lesson and tactic is to spend less time on Facebook (where, interestingly enough, not one person commented on the Haiti post or reposted… telling no?) and more time on twitter.

And one last little bit of info for you… just in case you still think social media is irrelevant or unimportant (or have someone at your organization that thinks this way), here’s a great video passed to me from my friend Larry.  While I don’t know that this is how you want to sell it to your ED or board


 “Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web”.


Think about that.





Haiti part 2

As you should guess by now this blog will partly be devoted to great articles and insights about social media and part dedicated to spreading word for my friend’s nonprofit about the current situation on the ground and their work in Haiti.  This may seem like a drift in mission but if you know about social media and social networking it really isn’t.  If you don’t understand why, don’t worry, I’ll be talking about this over the next few weeks, possibly longer.  And soon there will be more posts about social media and some of the things I’ve learned this week.  Because I don’t want them to get lost here and because many who came to this post specifically aren’t necessarily interested in that I’m only posting about Haiti today.  Tomorrow a bit more insight into what I’ve learned and a few really eye-opening articles.  (I’ll give you a hint, if you’re not on twitter you should be).

So as for Haiti.  As you know from my last post I posted here because my friend Kathy is simply too busy (as are other people in her tiny org) getting aid to people, not writing, tweeting, blogging or advertising.  This is what I can do for her and her organization.  Help spread the word about what’s truthfully going on, share with people who care- there are sooo many of you! and give the truth from the ground a bit more publicity then it’s currently receiving.

My last post on Haiti raised a lot of questions.  Here they are with the answers to them direct from Kathy:

What organizations are requesting the forms to be filled out?
We are hearing reports that Minustah (the UN overseer in Haiti) is requesting these forms before aid can be authorized for an area.  Although we understand the need for over sight and coordination the 100 question form contains questions that most would not have the answer to (Haitian or other) such as the GPS coordinates.

Are these forms that individuals from a community has to fill out if they want to transport supplies back to their community? These are forms that an aid group or leader from a community has to fill out.  I am unsure how the food is distributed once approved because we have now taken it upon ourselves to buy truck and boat loads of food and are bringing it to communities not being served.

Is there anyone else with first hand knowledge that can write about it?
We are hearing of similar reports from other NGO’s working on the ground.  I am sure they have already written about it and as I said we have moved on and are focusing on delivering emergency aid.  Some of the groups that I know have written about this are Konpay, Beyond Borders and Soil.

Are there any pictures we can get of supplies sitting at airport?
I do not have any pictures but even CNN was talking about this story and showing the back log of supplies.

Do they have any knowledge of locations that have received NO aid yet?
Yes we have a coalition of 25 small NGO’s working together in Haiti that send and share assessment reports.  There are MANY areas that have not received any aid.  I am also receiving phone calls from Haitians all over the country reporting no aid.  The large aid relief efforts are focused on the tent cities in Port au Prince and in Jacmel.  However there are hundreds of thousands of affected residents that are not in these tent cities.  To put it in perspective here are some numbers,  there are 2 million homeless, over 250,000 killed, over 300,00 injured.  Over 450,000 residents of Port au Prince have fled the capitol returning the countryside reaching every corner of the island.  Over 60,000 have reached Jeremie alone one of the farthest point on the island and over 14 hours away from Port by boat.  Some people walked 6 days to reach there.

It is not surprising given the vastness of destruction and mayhem that there would be some delays in getting aid distributed but a point to remember is that UN has been in Haiti since 2004 with over 7,000 peace keeping troops already on the ground through out the country with bases, supplies and a infrastructure that could have facilitated aid in the first couple of days.

HSDF is part of the Haiti response coalition and has brought food, water, medicine, doctor and volunteer teams into 4 areas that had not received any other aid.

We will continue to work on getting emergency critical aid to these areas and coordinate to serve other areas we know are still waiting several weeks after the catastrophe.

Hope that helps. I have heaps of other facts and numbers but literally have pages of reports.


I will be doing what I can to keep the information flowing.  As I said, Kathy has worked quite literally since this thing happened to find her family and get aid to the unaided people in Haiti.  I don’t know that she’s taken even a day off yet so getting more information isn’t something I’m willing to push for.  I have told her to just spout information (emails, reports, you name it, well written or not) to me and I’d pull from them the relevent bits and pieces but even this is one more step in her insanely busy life.  I will get more information from them as often as possible without adding more stress to an already insanely stressful time.

In the end I’d rather have people I know and trust making things actually happen in Haiti than having them spend even a fraction of that time writing, blogging or reporting.  The good work doesn’t involve those things no matter how much we’d love to know what’s going on.  Thankfully there are organizations more interested in getting aid to people who are suffering then paperwork and written documentation!


OK, this is somewhat off topic except that it isn’t.  My friend Kathy’s organization is doing very important work in Haiti and one of their people on the ground in Haiti wrote a great note in Facebook about the reality of the large organizations and how they aren’t getting aid to people, instead favoring paperwork far too much of the time.  I decided to tweet this note out to many people on twitter who seem to be really following the stream there on the topic.  Many people I tweeted don’t have Facebook (my learning for today, not everyone on twitter is also on Facebook… everyone has their own desires for communication) so I need a way to post this note elsewhere to share it.  So here it is.  Yes folks, this is what Social Networking is about. 

Hello tout moun,

It has been an interesting experience sitting here in Port-Au-Prince being part of a coalition of 25 non-profit organizations coming together to coordinate the dispensation of food, water, and medical supplies. It hasn’t been easy because of the extreme difficulty of passing through the myriad loops that the large NGO’s require before anything will be given out. There is a 100 question form that they are passing out to communities to fill out bring back in order to receive aid. This alone can take them a week or so. The questions they ask are very difficult to answer and explaining location in Port-Au-Prince, is nearly impossible. Often Haitians use directions like, next to the large tree around the corner from so and so market. The UN wants GPS coordinates because many streets are not marked here and navigating the city has proven to be difficult.

After the one riot that took place in the worst part of the city, they are only sending out non-food items at first to see if the communities can function without a disaster taking place. I understand their concern for safety, but it seems to be quite a long process to go through before any nutritional needs are met. It has been nearly three weeks now and communities all over the place are living on minimal amounts of food if any. The Haitian government has been completely bypassed in all of this. The president has thrown his hands up in the air because he is not being included or informed about anything that is happening involving this process of bringing aid relief to the people.
Boats full of goods are being redirected to pass through the Dominican Republic (DR) which is a very lengthy process as well. We actually have a boat waiting in the DR which hasn’t received any clearance by the port of Jacmel to debark.

When did it occur that our society got so disorganized. Where paperwork and numbers are given priority over bringing actual aid to the people. Smaller organizations have given up all over the place trying to deal with the larger NGO’s and the UN because there still has been any sign of the goods being distributed. They have warehouses full of boxes and can’t organize their dispensation to the country. The small organizations have given up and are buying local food to distribute and/or taking trips to the DR and driving truck loads of good back to the communities they are working in.

I understand that indeed this is quite a difficult project, but how could it be so disorganized? I hope that there will be a reflective inquiry into what made this all such a mess, so in the future aid relief will arrive and actually be given out to the people in timely manner and avoid the watching the population deminish everyday while groups run around like a chicken with its head cut off staring at piles of papers and computer screens, forgetting that behind the numbers are real people in dire need.
This has been a huge disaster, not only with the earthquake, but with the response. I only can hope that we get it together before more and more Haitians perish because the loads of aid aren’t quite ready because they haven’t been given the go by those in charge. If this doesn’t reflect the depth of our Orwellian times, and not wake us up from this great mess we have gotten ourselves into, I am not sure what will.

The Haitian people are unfortunatley used to living with very limited resources including food and water and have a high tolerance for suffering. If this was to happen in the US there would have been no tolerance for such suffeering. With great hope and determination we will overcome this all and Haiti will revive itself.

Thank you,
Ryan McCrory