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Jan 15, 2010 2:25 PM by JThibodeaux

Local United Ways Mobilize for Haitian Victims

LAFAYETTE - United Way is encouraging local residents to join worldwide efforts to respond to the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on Tuesday. French-speaking countries like Haiti came to the aid of Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"Our office has already been contacted about our plans for assisting with this disaster," said Margaret Trahan, President and CEO of United Way of Acadiana. "There are so many unknowns at this point. The best thing people can do right now is to make a monetary contribution and also to pray for the families there."

For Acadiana residents who want to help, area United Ways are providing options on their websites. Options include making an online monetary donation. A text-to-give option to make a $5 gift is also available by texting HAITI to 864833. All funds contributed through these channels will be used by United Way Worldwide for long-term recovery efforts in Haiti.

Currently dozens of humanitarian organizations, including the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, are already engaged in immediate relief efforts. Other organizations, like United Way Worldwide, will focus on long-term recovery efforts.

"The people of Acadiana are naturally generous and caring, having experienced our own share of natural disasters. As we learn more through our state, national and international partners about how people here in Acadiana can provide assistance, we promise to share that information in a timely manner," said Corleen Rouly, Executive Director of the United Way of Iberia.

Local residents who want to volunteer may register their interest now for efforts that will be needed in the weeks and months to come. "Volunteers can play an important role, but response to a disaster in a foreign country requires special coordination for the complexities involved. And volunteer opportunities in foreign disaster settings are usually limited to people with prior disaster experience or technical skills such as health, engineering, etc.," explained Trahan. The United Way of Acadiana Volunteer Center will link prospective volunteers to opportunities when those opportunities become available.

"The long term need for assistance will be better defined in the weeks and months ahead," said Cathy Duplechin, Executive Director of the St. Landry-Evangeline United Way. United Way Worldwide is partnering with the United Way Caribbean Regional Council, the United Way of Puerto Rico and other United Ways in the region near Haiti to evaluate the current situation and to assess long-term recovery needs.

Local United Way Websites

www.unitedwayofacadiana.org

www.unitedwayofiberia.org

www.uwsle.org

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