Haiti, Social Media, & The Red Cross

30 Jan

According to the Associated Press the first images to come out of Haiti showing the devastation caused from a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that leveled many Haitian cities did not come from reporters.  Instead the first images were tweeted out over Twitter’s network.

After the 7.0 magnitude quake shook Haiti on Jan.12, social media networking sites were buzzing with information being shared between “friends” and “followers.” Within hours several Facebook and Twitter pages were created to connect quake survivors with their family and friends.

In the midst of devastation Haitians began setting up “media centers” in the city of Port-au-Prince.  These “media centers” are areas where people can come and for a monetary fee they can charge their cell phone, use a phone to make a call, and even access the internet briefly.

Information spread quickly and people were rapidly mobilized all over the world.  The reason this quick mobilization occurred is  because instant information delivered through social media means instant reaction.

The American Red Cross immediately responded and began advertising their Text2Help program.  By texting the word ‘Haiti’ to ‘90999’ cell phone users can make a $10 donation to Haiti; the $10 charge will be appear on the users next cell phone bill.  Within the first three days $8 million was raised for Haiti via text message donations, according to  the San Francisco Chronicle.

Participating Cell Carriers in the Text2Help Program:

  • Alltel
  • AT&T
  • Cellular South
  • Cellcom
  • Cincinnati Bell
  • Cricket
  • nTelos
  • Sprint
  • T-Mobile
  • U.S. Cellular
  • Verizon Wireless
  • Virgin Mobile

Social media is convenient and informative but it does have failings.  On the morning of Jan. 20 I tried to log in to my Twitter account about 7 a.m. and I found myself staring at a cute little blue whale and an error message. I was thinking to myself  “what is this?”

Twitter came back online a little over an hour later and the first tweet I read linked to a news article.  Apparently a 6.2 mag. aftershock had hit Haiti a few hours earlier and due to the mass number of tweets and re-tweets Twitter went over capacity and shutdown.

The U.S. Federal Government is offering a tax write-off on your 2009 taxes for donations made before Mar. 1, 2010 to Haiti.  Donations made to Haiti after Mar. 1 is claimable on your 2010 taxes.

To give to Haiti:

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