President Bill Clinton is the founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, the 42nd president of the United States and the UN Special Envoy for Haiti. He recently returned to Haiti to deliver supplies to the earthquake-damaged Caribbean nation.
When I returned to Haiti earlier this week to deliver medical supplies, food and water, I could barely recognize the city of Port-au-Prince, a city I have visited and cherished for more than 35 years: buildings and homes leveled; people in the streets, hungry, homeless and hurt; emergency vehicles and workers rushing through the streets to bring aid to the dying; the presidential palace in ruins.
But as I made my way to the General Hospital, I was struck by a familiar feeling of community and hope; the outpouring of support from every corner of the globe; the focus of relief and aid workers on the ground; and the commitment of President Preval and other government leaders to rebuild their country back stronger. News coverage has been quick to tell the story of Haiti as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and it's true that most people lived on under $2 a day long before the earthquake ravaged their capital city. But what has been lost in the headlines is the renewed commitment of the Haitian people to overcome 200 years of poverty and corruption, neglect and oppression, to become the country that truly reflects their ability and desires.
As UN Special Envoy for Haiti, I still believe they have that chance, but they are going to need help from all of us, not just foreign governments, to finish the work they have started. And I believe America has a chance to be the neighbor and partner Haiti deserves us to be. Fortunately, in times of crisis, Americans come together in the spirit of our common humanity, putting aside our disagreements to save lives and help people get back on their feet. This is the same spirit that brought us together after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 to give more than $1 billion to relief efforts, or what inspired us to give after Hurricane Katrina. And it's the same spirit that brought together members of my Clinton Global Initiative to pledge more than $100 million to help rebuild Haiti after a series of hurricanes hit the country in 2008.
How American's are helping out
In 2007, I wrote a book called Giving, in which I said that all people had something to give to make a difference in the lives of others, whether it was money, time or skills. I told the stories of individuals young and old, from affluent backgrounds and poor communities alike, who had done something to change the world.
Today, I am even more confident that small actions make a big difference. A day after President Barack Obama announced that President George W. Bush and I would be establishing a fund, my office received a call from a store owner in Indiana who had placed a 5-gallon jar on the counter to raise money for relief efforts. The jar was filling so quickly, he was calling to find out the best way to transfer the money to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
We've received many calls from people with similar hopes and stories, with offers of services and goods and whatever money they can spare, people who want to make a difference but don't have the ability to write big checks. With innovation in technology, texting is making it easier than ever to give, raising millions of dollars for the Red Cross and other relief funds.
Once the emergency passes, together we can help the Haitian people pick up where they left off to build Haiti back better, with new opportunities for jobs, healthcare, education, clean energy and trade. It won't be easy. It won't be quick. And it will take a lot more 5-gallon jars. But it all begins with one action, large or small, to help an entire nation reach its destiny.
To donate to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, visit www.ClintonBushHaitiFund.org. Or, text QUAKE to 20222 to donate $10 to Haiti relief through the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
Printed from Oprah.com on Thursday, March 13, 2014
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