Opening our hearts to Haiti

The devastating earthquake in Haiti turned into an opportunity for people around the world to show thatHaiti Humor Column they care –- and so far millions have opened their hearts in all sorts of ways. They’ve emptied their wallets, swiped their credit cards, and even withdrawn large amounts of cash from under their mattresses.

They’ve organized fundraising dinners –- pizza, spaghetti, barbecue –- drawing large crowds who just can’t resist the signs and posters that say “Pig out for Haiti” and “Stuff yourself for a good cause.”

Some schools held “Hats for Haiti” days, allowing students to wear hats in their classrooms if they donate at least $1. Other schools organized “Pajamas for Haiti” days, “Chew gum for Haiti” days, and the very popular “Kiss a Cheerleader for Haiti” days.

A Catholic school in Canada raised $4,000 by having a “dress-down day,” a very successful fundraiser, even if some boys were disappointed that not a single girl let her dress down.

At a Pennsylvania university, a group of students organized a coin drive, urging fellow students to search their dorm rooms for any money lying around. One international student managed to find millions of dollars. Unfortunately they were Zimbabwean dollars.

A 7-year-old London boy raised 55,000 pounds through a “Help a Haitian Child” cycle ride. Not to be outdone, a group of Venice Beach, Calif., bodybuilders raised 60,000 pounds in a single day — and without taking any extra steroids.

Many cellphone users gave money by texting the word “Haiti’ to a special number, allowing their phone company to bill them for the donation. This proved to be a very efficient method of collecting donations. The American Red Cross managed to collect $3 million from people who texted “Haiti” to 90999 and another $5 million from people who texted “Hey tea.”

President Obama asked former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to lead private fundraising efforts in America. Both were eager to help –- and Bush didn’t even ask where Haiti is. Laura had already told him.

The former presidents were willing to set aside political differences for a good cause. They created a special fund for Haiti and didn’t even argue whether to call it the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (CBHF) or the Bush Clinton Haiti Fund (BCHF). Bush suggested they go in alphabetical order, Clinton agreed, and so it was called the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio donated $1 million to CBHF, joining George Clooney, Sandra Bullock and others who pledged $1 million for Haiti relief. You’ve got to give them credit. While DiCaprio’s donation was “Titanic,” Clooney’s was “Out of Sight” and Bullock’s was done with “Speed.”

About 200 celebrities participated in the “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon, broadcast across the globe. Some, like Alicia Keys and Taylor Swift, performed “Songs for Haiti,” while others, like Jack Nicholson and Julia Roberts, took calls from viewers pledging money. Nicholson was his usual gentlemanly self, speaking to callers with grace and charm, even the ones who said, “Would you mind handing the phone to Julia?”

Perhaps the biggest hearts belong to all the people who took steps to adopt orphans from Haiti, the ones eager to commit to years of feeding a child, clothing a child and saying to a child, “No, you can’t organize a ‘Help a Haitian Child Buy a Sony PlayStation’ cycle ride.”

Photo by Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross

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If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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