New media is playing a critical important role in the rush to save Haiti. Almost immediately after the earthquake struck the White House and State Department appealed the American people to donate $10 by texting HAITI to 90999 on their cell phones. Even celebrities such as Haitian born rapper Wyclef Jean are setting up text messaging services accepting donations. In Jean’s case, cell phone users can text YELE to 501501 to make a donation that goes to his Yele Foundation for reconstruction. So far, more people have given money in the first month of 2010 than was donated for any cause via text message in all of 2009.
Cell phones are not the only boost to fundraising efforts. Social networking sites Facebook and Twitter are buzzing with topics related to Haiti. According to CNN, at midday on Thursday, five of the 10 most popular tweets in Twitter were either directly or indirectly related to Haiti. Other celebrities including cyclist Lance Armstrong, a veteran Twitter enthusiast, encouraged their fans to donate to the earthquake-relief.
Despite tough economic times when devastation strikes, the Americans are overwhelmingly generous in their contributions to those in need. This week Americans dug into their pockets and contributed $5, $10 and more to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and a number of relief organizations rallying to the support of Haitians affected by Tuesday’s earthquake. As of this morning cell phone users donated more than $8 million for Red Cross Relief in Haiti.
While Americans have always provided considerable monetary donations for relief efforts (i.e. the tsunami that hit Indonesia in 2004), the methods for doing so have become simplified and more accessible. In the past, when disaster hits, relief and reconstruction organizations encourage people to go online and make a donation. Today, all that is needed is a cell phone to make a difference. As the State Department ventures to improve its new media outreach, it is obvious that this most recent endeavor was a success.