Helping Haiti through the power of community

By Anna Kramer
Students at Oak Grove Montessori School in Mansfield, CT, host a bake sale to benefit Oxfam's Haiti relief work. Photo: Oxfam America.

When a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, Alexandria, VA, small business owner and Oxfam America donor Danielle Romanetti knew that she wanted to help—and that her friends and neighbors did, too. That’s when she realized she could use her yarn store, Fibre Space, as a means to raise funds for the relief effort.

In the aftermath of the quake, Oxfam moved quickly to provide emergency aid for thousands of affected people. Meanwhile, supporters like Romanetti also took action, organizing dozens of large and small community events to raise funds and awareness about the crisis.

Teaming up with local businesses

A few days after the quake, Romanetti contacted Oxfam with an offer to donate a portion of her store’s proceeds for the weekend of January 16 and 17. She then sent an email to the local knitting community, inviting customers to “Shop and stitch this weekend for Haiti.” In two days, they raised $1,761 to benefit Oxfam America’s Haiti earthquake response.

“It doesn’t matter how you contribute … as long as you do what you can to help,” said Romanetti.  “Find a charity or an event and be a part of the relief effort.”

Benefit concerts

One night of bluegrass. One night of hip-hop and reggae. By bringing together eight artists for a two-night series, the January 25 and 26 Oxfam America benefit concert at Pizza Lucé in Duluth, MN, offered something for fans from all over the spectrum.

In addition to music, the benefit featured art, a raffle, and a silent auction, with contributions from over 50 local businesses and organizations. Seventy-five percent of the proceeds—a total of $3,520—went to support Oxfam’s Haiti earthquake response. Those who came to the benefit also had a chance to learn more about Oxfam’s work at an informational table staffed by volunteers from the Oxfam Action Corps.

Bake sales

Would anyone pay $25 for a cookie? The answer is yes—if it’s for a good cause. Or at least that’s what students at Oak Grove Montessori School in Mansfield, CT, found out on January 21, when they organized a bake sale to benefit Oxfam America’s Haiti relief work.

Fifth grader Anna Turner, 10, came up with the idea for the bake sale while listening to radio reports of the earthquake on her ride to school. She teamed up with her classmates, Nadia Henry and Emily Broggeman, to bake cupcakes, brownies, mousse cake, and pound cake. They then sold the treats at their school, asking parents and students to donate whatever they could; some gave as much as $25 per cookie.  Thanks to this generous support, the girls raised $815 to support the relief effort.


“To help raise money for Oxfam, I am doing a somewhat unorthodox fundraiser …”

So read an email to friends and family from Andrew Chappelle, an Oxfam America CHANGE Leader now based in London, UK. Chapelle’s plan? “On February 27, I’ll be hopping out of a plane at 10,000 feet just north of London. A perfectly good plane… on a frigid day… for a great cause.”

Chappelle used social networking tools like Facebook to mobilize support for his dive, with a goal of raising 1000 pounds (about $1565). As of this writing, he’s still raising funds, with his sights set on supporting Haiti’s long-term recovery.

“When the life-saving needs are met, Oxfam will still be there, helping earthquake survivors build back their lives and tackle the poverty that makes them vulnerable to future disasters,” he wrote.

Nancy Delaney, Oxfam’s community outreach manager, says grassroots events like these help Oxfam build a crucial base of support for responding to emergencies. And even after the disaster fades from the headlines, they educate people about fighting poverty and hunger—issues at the core of all of Oxfam’s work.

“Emergencies—and how we respond to them—can be catalysts for social change,” says Delaney. “When you attend a community event or host an Oxfam fundraiser, you’re witnessing the power of many people working together to make a difference.”

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