I just finished a six hour shift of manning the phones for the National Red Cross trying to help people who wanted to find out about loved ones in Haiti and/or volunteer time and money.
Let me share with you what I know.
First, for those people looking for news about people in Haiti, the International Red Cross (ICRC) has set up a website (http://www.icrc.org/familylinks) for people to go online and register their missing family members. The Red Cross has "trackers" in Haiti who will post information about people in Haiti as that information becomes available. Unfortunately, most of the information on the website right now is about the missing.
For people who want to help now, the Red Cross is taking monetary donations* one of four ways.
1) By mail, to American Red Cross, Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20012.
2) Online, through the secure website - www.redcross.org.
3) By phone, 1-800-733-2767 or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish).
or, 4) through a text message saying "haiti" to 90999. With this option, $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill.
The Red Cross is also looking for volunteers. It's a process, so you can't expect to call today and be sent to Haiti tomorrow. But this will be a disaster that will be around and needing volunteers for a long time, so the best approach for someone wanting to help is to go to their local chapter (in the Washington, DC area, the website is www.redcrossnca.org) and do what's required under the "volunteer" tab. Because the Red Cross must vouch for its volunteers, a prospective volunteer must take some free classes and go through a background check.
I first volunteered after Katrina because of Katrina. I didn't go to New Orleans, but I was working floods and tornadoes within weeks of volunteering. Now, I'm a part of a disaster team that usually goes to local fires. But this week, I've been asked to help out nationally with the Haiti response.
It's hard to watch the hardship caused by the disaster, but it does help to feel like I'm doing a little to help out. I hope you will find your way to help as well.
*The Red Cross is unable to take donations of food, clothing, etc. The organization doesn't have the space or the manpower to handle such donations.