The Camp Community Responds to the Disaster In Haiti

The video from Haiti is astounding. The Red Cross estimates that 50,000 lives have been lost, and according to National Public Radio, thousands of children have been temporarily separated from their families – perhaps to be permanently orphaned. Camps across the United States are seeking out ways to assist. Many have peered at their own facilities that are empty at this time of year and want to reach out to offer their empty beds, folded-up tents, and mounds of warm linens. Our community is renowned for “making things happen” in times of crisis. The key message from those on the front lines, however, is:

Earthquake-devastated Haitians need donations of cash — not clothes, food, medicine, or other relief supplies, as well intended as they might be.

In addition, our camp community has seen the faces of potentially orphaned Haitian children, and the immediate reaction has been to try to figure out how to arrange for adoptions within American families — indeed our nature is to protect children. However, experts have pleaded to resist that immediate urge:

Three aid groups called Thursday (January 21) for an immediate halt to any new adoptions of Haitian children after last week's earthquake. Save the Children, World Vision, and a unit of the British Red Cross said the focus first must be on tracing any family members that children may still have and reuniting them. "Any hasty new adoptions would risk permanently breaking up families, causing long-term damage to already vulnerable children, and could distract from aid efforts in Haiti," the agencies said in a joint statement.

So, what can be done at this time?

Donate money. Stay current on what the experts are requesting. Respond when asked.

The American Camp Association® (ACA) urges the camp community to donate directly to the American Red Cross.

History has shown us that when the initial relief efforts are completed and relief workers return home, rebuilding and recovery is often the most challenging — and frequently ignored. With that in mind, ACA will be strategizing with others concerning how the camp community might play a role in recovery efforts. Dialogue with relief organizations and other experts will begin shortly. Watch this Web site for news and updates on what we discover and what recommendations we make to the camp community.

In the mean time, if your camp is contacted by a reputable relief organization with a request to consider housing victims of the earthquake, we suggest you consider the following key questions prior to making your decision to render aid: