Serving People, Serving Food, Days of Service: Help Haiti

Seem to have a food-related volunteer theme emerging this week. Not my intention but just going to run with it.

If ever there was a time to ignore the imperative Think Global, Act Local, this is it. Don’t you agree?

As I explained to my son on this week’s MLK Day of Service, we’re thinking and acting globally and locally. How can you not help Haiti?

For ideas with a food focus, check out my friend Nani Steele’s blog here or Kim Severson at the New York Times. Or learn more below.

But first, some background. Not a fan of government-initiated calls to duty. It’s my rebellious spirit. Still, the Day of Service I can get behind.

Last year, the event got a huge, historic turnout, fueled by almost-Prez Obama. But we arrived home from a trip Down Under that day, jet-lagged, discombobulated, and, basically, no use to anyone.

This year, I vowed, things would be different. We’d step up and do good.

I’m not new to volunteering. I used to read to kids in hospital when I first landed here. One child, David, was in a coma following a car accident.

Notes above his bed instructed his “book buddies” to read Dr. Seuss, his favorite author. At first it felt odd reading to a kid who couldn’t respond or move. But nonetheless every Monday night I read to that beautiful little boy, even though I doubted he would get better.

Well, of course, he did. I got to enjoy his sweet smile when I tickled him, by request, with a peacock feather. And I was, frankly, a teensy bit devastated when he was moved to a rehab hospital. I never knew what happened to him. He’d be 24 now.

Years later, following another major life change, this time back across the pond to my homeland, I took on another volunteer gig.

I lived in Sydney and taught English to a new mom, who happened to be a former art critic for a Korean daily paper.

I don’t know if her English improved but I know she appreciated contact with a local, chats about journalism, cultural differences, and where to find food from home.

Upon our return to the States I began volunteering in Berkeley public schools, including, as noted previously, at the Edible Schoolyard.

For the record: I’m not some charity groupie with too much time on my hands and no need to, you know, earn a living. On the contrary.

I’m a self-employed writer; code for often anxious, underemployed and underpaid. Major plus: flexible schedule. Mostly works. Except the anxious part, due to under bits.

And honestly folks, it’s not a huge time investment. Less time than most people watch TV in one day. Ninety minutes at Edible; two hours tops if I stay to help with clean up.

This may be my last year in my child’s classroom. What middle school kid wants his parent hanging around? SO EMBARRASSING. And so I am savoring the task assigned by his teacher, a departure from previous years, when I’ve helped small groups of kids with the 3 Rs.

I’m working one-on-one with a child to help improve her comprehension and reading and raise her confidence so she believes she can do both these things. Small success last week had us both jazzed. When it works well, giving feels good on both sides of the equation.

While I know I’m modeling worthwhile values that I hope my son will pursue, I also want him to directly participate in charitable acts.

Back to: What to do on this year’s Day of Service? I got inspiration from an unlikely source, none other than George Bush Jr. Finally heard something come out of his mouth I could agree with: “Lots of people want to send supplies to Haiti. They need money. Just send money.”

So we did. We did the text thing. Took barely a minute, hurt a little (there goes the allowance), and that was our global contribution.

Then we bagged up pantry goods to take to a local food bank, along with a bag of Meyer lemons from our abundant tree. You know that many food banks will take fresh produce, right?

This Saturday, we’ll combine global & local at a bakesale benefit for Haiti, organized by chef Samin Nosrat and hosted at Oakland restaurant Pizzaiolo, which, as you might imagine, makes a mean pizza but also divine donuts. (Two other participating Bay Area locations: Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco and Gioia Pizzeria in North Berkeley. All $$$ goes to Partners in Health.)

Because when all is said and done, it is money that matters most to the people of Haiti right now. Much of that for critical medical care to stave off death. But, equally important, for sustenance to live.

So what better way to funnel money where it’s so urgently needed than connecting cash to another basic human need. To eat. Food.

What say you?


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18 Responses to “Serving People, Serving Food, Days of Service: Help Haiti”

  1. Nani Steele Says:

    Hi Sarah, Thanks for the shout out on my blog. Appreciate that you make volunteering part of your life, and that in your post you share with us not only what you have done and how little time it actually takes, but what you have gained from the experiences as well.

    I’ll be at this Saturday’s Bakesale for Haiti event with cookies and cakes in hand-look forward to the community building and making new friends, and not least, doing what we can to help, as you say–locally for globally.

  2. Cheryl@5secondrule Says:

    Good for you, Sarah. I’ve been struggling with whether to take a public stand for Haiti on my blog and haven’t yet done so. I’m so glad you have.

    Our temple has a “Mitzvah Day” (roughly translated: doing a good deed) each year that coincides with MLK Day. This year we collected lightly used running shoes from our friends who are big time runners for an organization called shoe4africa. It was an important lesson for our kids.

    And we’ve given money to Haiti, but I think it’s time to give more. The need there is just so impossibly great. Thanks for your multitude of links, and for your inspiring volunteerism.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      I love the synergy of your Mitzvah-MLK day, Cheryl.

      And your shoe collecting with your boys. Something tangible like that, as you say, is a great teaching tool for our kids.

  3. Jennifer Haupt Says:

    Nice blog, Sarah. Some great ideas in this post. I’m going to Haiti next week with Global Medical Relief Fund for Children. Check it out if you get a chance:

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Wow, Jennifer, it’s wonderful that you’re going to help. That’s as concrete action as anyone can take. I applaud your admirable effort.

      And I assume that you’ll keep us posted via your blog, My Faith Project:

      I wish you safe travels. All best, Sarah

  4. Alexandra Says:

    One of our local restaurants is having an evening to benefit Haiti. Every little bit helps.

    P.S.: The photo of those cupcakes is amazing!

  5. Susan Says:

    I’ve been so busy writing that I haven’t had a chance to do much volunteering this year. But I was very involved in various volunteer projects last year as a diversion from my father’s death. It felt a lot better to get out of the house and help others instead of feeling sorry for myself.

    So, I recorded books for the blind, pruned roses, served meals to the homeless, ushered at a local theater, etc. There’s a great organization here called Boston Cares that allows you to volunteer when you have time with no obligation to make an ongoing commitment.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Susan, kudos to you — you’ve contributed to your community in so many ways. Boston Cares sounds like a great resource in your area.

      We all have times when volunteering isn’t possible for personal or professional reasons but I think you make a great point that sometimes by helping others we’re able to get over our own pity party. Thanks for sharing your story in this regard.

      Best, Sarah

  6. Melanie Haiken Says:

    Lovely post; I wish there were more of that global service here where I live. It’s easy to get caught up in supporting local schools, dining rooms etc. and forget to look further afield. I support Partners in Health the clinic in Cange founded by Paul Farmer, and their email dispatches this past week have been devastating to read. I wish I could go too, like Jennifer!

  7. Sheryl Kraft Says:

    I enjoyed reading this, Sarah. I’ve volunteered over the years but never consistently. This made me think more about it, especially when you write about your experiences and how you do make a difference. The trick is to find something you truly love and believe in.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      You’re exactly, right, Sheryl. You have to find something you feel passionate about. For me, it’s always been kids, food, and culture.

      Since it can be so rewarding, I encourage you to keep your eyes and ears open; the right fit will emerge at the right time. Good luck! -Sarah

  8. Jennifer Margulis Says:

    One of the best ways to help the people of Haiti is to give a donation to PARTNERS IN HEALTH, which is a Cambridge-based organization started by Paul Farmer. Every penny is well spent (UNLIKE some charities) and they have so much experience on the ground, and an excellent staff, that they won’t flub it up.

    If you don’t have money, you can also give blood. Blood is something the Haitians need right now and it’s a unique way to contribute meaningfully!

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Great idea, Jennifer, re blood donations. Another tangible way to help.

      You and Melanie (Hi Mel!) both mention Partners in Health, that’s the very same charity the bakesale benefit is supporting. Stay tuned for an update on how much money was raised — and all while buying divine desserts.

  9. Presto Says:

    I am helping Haiti in my own little way by donating money through online banking and to any social websites that just need a click for donation.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Hi Presto,

      You make a good point — if it’s easy and relatively painless to do — people will pony up some money. Few can resist baked goods:) — at least in my house.

  10. MyKidsEatSquid Says:

    I’m helping pack up hygiene kits for Haiti with a group of friends. But I also believe in praying for those in need, so as a family we’ve been doing that also.

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