Want to help victims of the earthquake in Haiti? Aid organizations need your assistance but warn that well-intentioned efforts like collecting bottled water and clothing on your own may not be the most helpful thing for a disaster-ravaged country that does not have the infrastructure to distribute them.
Some tips from InterAction, a coalition of U.S.-based international non-governmental organizations:
• Donating cash to established relief organizations is the best way to help because it allows professionals to get exactly what they need and does not use up scarce resources such as transportation, staff time or warehouse space.
• If you decide to donate supplies and not cash, contact an established relief organization before you collect anything. If you have already collected items, donate them to a relief organization within your community or sell them at a yard sale or charity auction and donate the proceeds.
• People who want to volunteer should have previous disaster or international experience or technical skills and should work through a relief organization. More information is available from the Center for International Disaster Information.
Here is a list of organizations accepting donations:
• InterAction has a list of agencies responding and how to donate to them.
• To donate $10 to the American Red Cross, text Haiti to 90999. The amount will be added to your next phone bill. The organization is also accepting donations through its International Response Fund.
• UNICEF's United States Fund is accepting donations at its Web site or by calling 800-4UNICEF.
• To donate $5 to Wyclef Jean's Haitian Yele charity, text 501501. The money will be added to your next phone bill.
• Operation USA is accepting cash donations at its Web site. It also is looking for airline miles, corporate sponsorships and product donations.
• To find out how to help the International Rescue Committee, visit their Web site or call toll free, 877-REFUGEE.
• To donate through Oxfam's emergency appeal, visit the agency's Web site.