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The Business of Giving

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January 13, 2010 at 11:41 AM

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Haiti humanitarian efforts linked by mobile connections

Posted by Kristi Heim

It was clear the earthquake wrought devastation on a massive scale. Time saved meant lives saved. Two wireless companies in Bellevue went straight to work, one to repair its mobile network in Haiti and the other to channel funds to relief workers using text messaging.

In a country where traditional landline service is almost non-existent, more than a million Haitians rely on the mobile service Voilà for communications. That service is provided by Bellevue-based Trilogy International Partners, which received an award this year from the U.S. State Department for its decade of work in the impoverished country.



THONY BELIZAIRE/APF/GETTY IMAGES

Haitians carry injured in Port-au-Prince, as planeloads of rescuers and relief supplies headed there in a massive relief operation.

Trilogy said members of its crisis task force were one of the first aircraft to land this morning at the Port-au-Prince airport to assist on-the-ground efforts.The earthquake wiped out much of the infrastructure in the most densely populated part of the country. Its local team could travel only by foot because roads were so heavily damaged.

Senior management of Trilogy, its Haitian wireless operation (Voilà) and its Dominican Republic operation (Trilogy Dominicana/Viva) began a disaster recovery plan and formed a special task force to secure the safety of its 500 local employees and assess damages, the company said in a post today on its Web site. Within hours the team determined its buildings were intact and its staff located.

"Voilà's network continued to operate for several hours through the aftershocks before we were forced to shut down the switch to maintain its integrity until our generators and cooling systems were back online," the company said in its post. "We have restarted our generators at the main switch and are in the process of bringing our network back up. Once this has occurred, we will be focused on managing traffic and adding capacity as rapidly as possible to aid the humanitarian efforts in Haiti."



TRACIE MORRIS/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Trilogy Chairman John Stanton was given a global citizenship award from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for his company's work in Haiti, including a micro-enterprise that helps local entrepreneurs earn money and a partnership with musician Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti foundation to support education.

In Bellevue, Jim Manis at the Mobile Giving Foundation quickly worked to roll out text message- based fundraising efforts. Manis founded the non-profit to help other non-profit organizations receive donations through text messaging campaigns. I profiled the foundation here.

People can text a keyword to a designated short code and make a donation of $5 or $10 to any of several organizations working to help Haiti. Every penny of the donation goes to the charity, and the amount appears later as a charge on the donor's mobile phone bill.

The Mobile Giving Foundation said it has already raised about $375,000 today, through the following campaigns:


  • Text the word "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 to the Yele Foundation, the leading contributor to rebuilding Haiti founded by Wyclef Jean.

  • Text the word "Haiti" to 25383 to donate $5 to the International Rescue Committee

  • Text the word "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross.

  • Text the word "Haiti" to 45678 (In Canada Only) to assist the Salvation Army in Canada.

  • Amazon.com established a box on its homepage today where customers can contribute to Mercy Corps' relief efforts.

    Other groups engaged in ongoing relief efforts in Haiti include:

    Partners In Health, Boston, www.pih.org
    Mercy Corps, Portland, 800-852-2100 or www.mercycorps.org
    Medical Teams International, Portland, 800-959-4325 or www.nwmedicalteams.org
    American Red Cross, 800-733-2767 or www.redcross.org
    World Concern, Seattle, 800-755-5022 or www.worldconcern.org
    World Vision, Federal Way, 888-511-6548 or www.worldvision.org



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