Haiti Partners regularly gets offers and questions about Gifts-in-Kind (GIK) to send to Haiti. From clothes and toys to books and school supplies, we’re encouraged to hear the passion and ideas that many of you have for helping in Haiti. We certainly understand the desire to help in very direct and tangible ways; plus, in a world where it’s difficult to figure out which non-profits are being good stewards of your donations, it can seem like GIK is an easy way to make sure that assistance gets in the hands of those who need it.
However, GIK is often tricky to do well, and these donations can even counter-productive for a number of reasons.
- The cost of shipping these items internationally can be quite expensive. Add to this the time and money that it can take for the shipment to clear customs, and you could end up spending more to distribute these goods than it would have cost to buy them in Haiti.
- Even if it’s not more costly to ship these items, buying locally puts money into the Haitian economy and helps provide livelihoods for hard-working Haitians.
- Well-meaning people often want to donate goods that are second-hand or of a lower quality, and these simply won’t hold up in the harsher environment of a developing country.
As an organization, we strive to do as much as possible to empower Haitians. By relying as much as possible on local systems and capacity, we build up and support them. We also want to make sure that the assistance that we facilitate is specifically requested by our Haitian colleagues, rather than something that’s just of interest to North American donors.
So what kind of GIK will we accept, and when? At minimum, any offer has to meet three basic criteria.
- It has to be unavailable or prohibitively expensive in Haiti.
- It has to be an item that our Haitian colleagues and partners have requested or approve.
- It has to be of high enough quality that it will honor the dignity of those receiving it.
Right after the earthquake, Briggs & Stratton, a Fortune 1000 company, approached Haiti Partners with an offer of 240 generators that could provide a reliable supply of electricity in earthquake-stricken areas. Since this kind of equipment wasn’t available in Haiti, and it could fill a critical need, we accepted their generous offer, worth over $250,000 dollars. These generators are still supplying power to schools, clinics, and non-profits in Haiti.
The following is a list of items that our Haitian or North American colleagues have already expressed an interest in.
- laptops (2008 or newer and in good shape w/ working battery and wifi)
- PDA’s (2008 or newer and in good shape)
- digital cameras (still and video, in good shape)
- quality and near new messenger bags or backpacks (such as Targus, Swiss army, etc)
- French or Creole language literature books (not textbooks)
- American Airline Frequent Flyer Miles
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 772-539-8521