Helping Haiti: Options for Travelers

As a group, I have found travelers to be especially empathetic when it comes to other countries' tragedies. And for the many travelers who want to do something to support relief efforts in the wake of Haiti's devastating earthquake earlier this week, there are a range of options for acting on their charitable impulses.

Getting for Giving

Two airlines are offering ways to do well by doing good.

American is offering members of its AAdvantage program 250 bonus miles for donating a minimum of $50 to the American Red Cross and 500 bonus miles for donations of $100 or more. The offer will remain in effect through February 28.

Even more generous is a special offer from Spirit. The airline is offering 5,000 bonus miles to the first 200,000 Free Spirit members who donate at least $5 to the American Red Cross, UNICEF, or Yele Haiti by January 17.

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Miles for Charity

Aside from such special bonuses, most major airline and hotel programs allow their members to donate cash, miles, or points to selected charities, some of which will be on the front lines in Haiti in the coming days and weeks.

Starwood, for example, allows Preferred Guest members to redeem 4,000 points for a $50 donation to the American Red Cross, 8,000 points for a $100 donation, and so on.

And members of US Airways' Dividend Miles can donate their miles to the airline's Miles of Hope program, which distributes the miles among various charities to offset their travel expenses.

If you have miles or points with a loyalty scheme, check the program's website for opportunities to put them to charitable use.

Cash Is King

From all reports, the most critical need in the immediate aftermath of this disaster is cash, since it can be used to quickly secure whatever supplies are most needed, based on real-time assessments by on-site relief workers.

Among the reputable organizations that need money to fund their efforts in Haiti:

  • The William J. Clinton Foundation - Led by President Clinton, currently U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti, the foundation is seeking donations to "help provide immediate relief and long-term support to earthquake survivors."
  • The Global Syndicate - The Syndicate's Haiti Project is raising money to "respond to the recent devastation in Haiti."
  • Yele Haiti - This organization, founded by Wyclef Jean, Goodwill Ambassador to Haiti, has established an earthquake fund. According to their website, "100% of funds raised goes to the relief operation!"

Just Do It

We've touched on a few of the many ways our readers can be part of the solution. Donations of time, money, miles, and points can all be difference-makers.

Whatever you do, do something. And do it soon, while the need is greatest.

Read comments or add your own insight!
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