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Jan 2010

Social Media Lends Haiti a Helping Hand

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There have been a lot of faith-restoring stories coming out of the social media world of late. Last week I wrote about the Facebook campaign that has helped save the life of young British student Philip Pain who fell seven-stories in Mexico and was in desperate need of blood. This week I want to acknowledge the huge effort made by social networking pages to help the people of Haiti.

Only minutes after the devastating earthquake floored the tiny Caribbean nation last Tuesday, the online world was mobilised and ready to help in any way it could.

One of the organisations leading the way was The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) who have now raised over £25 million after their appeal was announced on Twitter on last Wednesday.

The DEC has utilised Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube over the past week and their Chief Executive, Brendan Gormley, has publicly praised the significant role these social media sites have had in their campaign.

Mr. Gormley said, “Social networking has proven itself as a valuable addition to the fundraising machine. I’m thrilled that we have been able to quickly communicate and engage the UK public, who have in turn responded with tremendous generosity to help the people of Haiti who so urgently need our help.

“Their donations mean our member agencies can continue to source and deliver the emergency supplies needed like safe water, shelter, medicine and food. We hope people will continue to give their support so that more emergency aid can be added to what will be a massive humanitarian effort.”

DEC reported on Facebook that Flickr has been used to host images from the DEC’s member agencies, with 34,000 views of the DEC account on Friday, while a video of the DEC broadcast appeal has attracted nearly 4,000 views on YouTube.

Not only has social media been an outstanding tool to stimulate aid and increase donations, it has also played a vital role in spreading news and remarkably, locating victims.

This is the first example we’ve seen where that sense of global community has been expressed in action, for example using social media technology to get the story out faster, to locate victims, and to give instantaneous donations,” said James Norrie, a media professor at RTS’s School of IT Management. “That’s an amazing use of a social media tool.”

The events in Haiti, while both shocking and saddening, have reinforced social media’s undoubted ability for social good.

I think Tom Brown, writing for The Burlington Free Press, captured it well when he wrote, “I’ve heard critics of social media say that users of communication tools such as Twitter and Facebook only want to talk to, and about, themselves and their friends. The earthquake in Haiti might help change the minds of some of those critics”.

“When people can respond that quickly and in such numbers to help their fellow man, then there certainly is hope”.

To make a donation to the DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal visit or call 0370 60 60 900, donate over the counter at any post office or high street bank, send a cheque made payable to ‘DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal’ to ‘PO Box 999, London, EC3A 3AA’ or text GIVE to 70077 to donate £5. £5 goes to DEC. You pay £5 plus your standard network SMS rate.

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