Haiti

UPDATE: There is conflicting information emerging regarding the #Bresma orphanage.  I would suggest monitoring the situation until an official spokesperson issues instructions.  Donations are being accepted, but the best course of action might be to send immediate financial donations to a reputable group such as Rainbow World Fund, Yele, or the Red Cross and keep in mind the needs of refugees who immigrate to the US, adult and child further down the road.  I'm not saying anything untoward is going on, but the information is impossible to verify at this time. It remains a compelling, if complicated, situation. 

I hope with all my heart that the hundreds of people offering to foster these children will contact a Pgh based foster care agency to begin the certification process.  There are 20,000+ children in Pennsylvania's foster care system, including any children who might come from Haiti.  The need is real. 

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I was in the monthly board meeting of the Steel City Stonewall Democrats when I learned about the earthquakes which devastated Haiti. I spent about 30 minutes with my attention divided between a discussion on social media as an advocacy tool and surreptitiously checking Uber-Twitter and FB vis a vis my Blackberry.  It was quite difficult to stay engaged while your sense of social justice priorities goes spinning in circles. 

All I had were words, no images.  But the power of those words … 140 characters at a time … is indescribable.  Retweets from loved ones here in the US.  Almost instantaneous fundraising advice from Wyclef Jean who was on his way home to help.  Tweet after tweet with links to stories, excerpts and cries.

I admit that I was a little disappointed that so many of my Pgh tweeps were continuing to tweet about American Idol with nary a shout out for Haiti.  Kudos to @BlogDiva for retweeting and retweeting to keep #haiti moving up the trending topics so people would notice. 

My disappointment was premature.  That night Lynn Cullen tweeted out asking if anyone knew what had happened to local women of whom I had never heard.

I wondered who Jamie and Ali were, but then turned my attention to national coverage.  It was hard to process so much intensity.  It just seemed surreal and foreign and disconnected from my own reality.

Then I learned who Jamie and Ali are.  From the amazing Ginny Montanez who has been investing all of her energy and influence to help these women and the children they serve.  Here's the skinny.

The latest update from Jonathan Wander is an email he received from Jamie — it’s not good, friends.  Things are deteriorating quickly for Jamie and Ali and the children.

This isn’t going to be an easy email to read:

“Our housé is falling b two also. Adoptions stoppéd five yrs at least. We are living in yard no food water bank stores phone mostly. Only idéa is if u no anyoné important who can give réfugee status to all thé bresma u.s. kids. We trùly cant keep babys alive water contaminated. This is our only hope –
only private planes allowed. We know its cràzy but can évryone come togethér and find a person to help us like obama? Thé kids r almost américan and will have homes. We try to call all day and cant. Sending this from a strangers blackberry.”

Do you understand that?  These two young U.S. citizens and their children are living in the yard of the orphanage. The house is falling.  The babies will not live if something isn’t done.  The children that could be evacuated are practically U.S. citizens, they are that far along in the adoption process.  They have ready homes here in the U.S.

We need help.

We need people who can get these U.S. adopted kids into America and we need a plane for Jamie and Ali to bring them home.

Jamie and Ali work in an orphanage with about 150 children who are in various stages of being adopted by American families.  The utter destruction of the entire Hatian government virtually ensures that years could pass before adoption proceedings resume on the Haitian end.  The orphanage is called BRESMA and right now, the adults and children are sitting in a courtyard with tainted water, no food and at the complete mercy of the elements and the inevitable looting as conditions across Port-Au-Prince deteriorate.

I'm not a big fan of transnational adoptions, but it seems that Pittsburgh has the ability to help 150 specific children who need their immigation status as adoptees fast tracked, an airlift out of Haiti and relocation to their waiting families.  Congressman Altmire has joined forces with Doyle, Specter and Casey to tackle the federal issues. Local politicals are mobilizing their resources. 

These children have homes and families awaiting them.Evacuating 150 children in the next day or two clears the way to get on the ground resources to other children and their families remaining in Haiti.  It makes sense from a moral and a practical point of view.  Let's get these kids to their new homes and the sucor of their American citizenship and THEN let's keep going.  It is a very powerful story and a humbling opportunity to do something real and concrete in response to unimaginable horror. 

My advice?  Read That's Church every day.  Stay abreast of the latest developments and the multitude of ways in which you can make this happen.  Read to witness the wonderful heart and soul of Pittsburgh swoosh together to contribute $5, blankets and corporate jets to save 150 children.  Plus, the women who love them and refuse to abandon their kids.  We need to bring them all home so Ali and Jamie can continue to spread their love.

Ginny has the details on how you can help.

I donated using my cell phone to Yele Haiti.  I vetted them using multiple NPO resources.  You can donate $5 which is added to your cell phone bill and takes about 2 minutes.  You can donate up to 6 times.  It is fast, efficient and gets the most valuable commodity … cash … into the hands of folks who can transform it into life saving goods and materials.   You text “Yele” to 501501.  Simple. 

Don't feel powerless.  Add $5 to your phone bill and text your friends to do the same.  That's less than one lunch.  Pack a sandwich and an apple, then donate. 

There's way more you can do.  Just follow the trends on Twitter and Facebook.  Fundraisers are popping up. Pgh charitable organizations are gearing up for the phase two and three stages of recovery and rebuilding.  Read the blogs.  Find our what becomes of Jamie and Ali and their kids. 

There's more.  Learn about Haiti.  Yes, learn about the poverty and the economic conditions and the political regimes.  But learn about the culture, the community and the people.  Listen to the music. Read how Haiti shaped American history. 

Now, Haiti is no friend to the gay community. But if channeling your donation to illustrate the compassion of our community is important (which it is), consider the Rainbow World Fund which is already on the ground throughout the world providing relief.  No need to recreate the wheel.

I'd like to see Pittsburgh's LGBTQ community step forward and sponsor a fundraising event.  Human beings are suffering and they are our brothers & sisters, gay or straight.  They are our children.  And the suffering of human beings living in the two-thirds world is not so disconnected from the lives of Americans living in poverty.