Global humanitarian agency Church World Service (CWS) today launched a novel fund-raising campaign for Haiti earthquake relief: calling for Wall Street’s financial industry leaders to tithe their bonuses for the reconstruction of Haiti following the disaster that killed more than 100,000 people and destroyed much of Port au Prince and the country’s fragile infrastructure.

According to CWS’ Lesley Crosson, “People are already joining the ‘Bonus4Haiti’ tithing call to Wall Street now, signing on to CWS's Facebook Cause page, tweeting the campaign to others, and raising the shoutout volume virally through the Internet, with the message, ‘Tell corporate CEOs that to whom much is given, much is expected. Please tithe your bonuses to Haiti!’”

“As a relief and development agency that has worked in Haiti beginning in 1954, Church World Service has seen the dire challenges, strife and unremitting, abject poverty that the people of Haiti have experienced for generation after generation,” said CWS executive director and CEO the Rev. John L. McCullough.

“Last Friday’s ‘Hope for Haiti Now Telethon’ (organized by actor George Clooney) made a powerful statement about our common humanity,” said McCullough. “Now is the perfect moment for executives in the financial sector to make an equally powerful statement about corporate social responsibility, by tithing their bonuses towards the longer and arduous challenge of redeveloping Haiti.”

McCullough noted the irony in the fact that, “Despite a continuing tough economy, persistently high jobless rate and the alarming increase of homeless families in the U.S., the American people managed to contribute to the $61 million raised in the one-night benefit for the Haitian people."

At the same time, said McCullough, “More Wall Street bankers and traders this year are expecting to receive massive bonuses than last year, despite public outrage over the industry’s seeming impunity to its own role in the economic meltdown.”

“We’re inviting all Americans to join the call and invite Wall Street to offer ten percent of those bonuses to Haiti. Consider it a sacrificial offering. Consider it seed money to jumpstart the reconstruction and development that we hope world leaders will now fully commit to while in Davos (site in Switzerland of the World Economic Forum meeting) this week.”

“Although prior to the earthquake the Haitian government had been making positive steps in terms of forwarding a viable economic direction, the burdens of hunger and poverty had not lessened while the rest of the world’s interest in Haiti had,” he said.

“This month’s catastrophic earthquake is not only an unforgettable tragedy but a wake-up call to rich nations of the world,” said McCullough, whose aid workers and their longtime local Haitian partner agencies are now assisting survivors on the island along with other international humanitarian groups, including Presbyterian Disaster Assistance of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“We have no choice now but to come together, collaboratively, once and for all, to assist the people of Haiti,” he said, “not simply to recover from what was the worst natural disaster in this hemisphere, but to assist them as they build, for the first time in their history, a country and a life that reflects and respects their indomitable spirit.”

CWS is also urging complete forgiveness of Haiti’s remaining debts.

Meanwhile, former U.S. President and United Nations special representative for Haiti Bill Clinton has announced intentions for a major initiative to engage businesses in the reconstruction of Haiti for an extended period of time.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has raised $1.2 million to date for Haiti earthquake relief.

“We continue to carry out strategic and coordinated efforts with our ecumenical and international partners — Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance and Church World Service (CWS), as well as local partners in Haiti,” said PDA Coordinator Randy Ackley.

“Together, we have set up fifteen food and water distribution sites around Port-au-Prince,” he continued.”We are working with these partners to bring in about 20,000 tents to help provide housing for the nearly 1 million people who are now homeless. PDA has also agreed to provide fuel, supplies and a generator to maintain medical services at one of the few working hospitals in the area.”

Because food, water and shelter are still in such short supply in Haiti, PDA has no immediate plans to send volunteer groups to the island nation. Those interested in registering to volunteer in Haiti may do so at the PDA Web site. You will be notified when the way is clear for PDA volunteers to go.

Right now the best way for Presbyterians to contribute to the relief effort continues to be cash donations. There are at least four ways to contribute:

  • Through local church channels;
  • Online at the PDA Web site;
  • With a credit card by calling PresbyTel at (800) 872-3283;
  • By mail to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700. (Account #DR000064)

Some churches and groups are assembling hygiene and baby kits to be sent to Haiti. Instructions for the kits are also available on the PDA Web site.