Text messages net over $400,000 for Haitian relief in first day after quake

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Superstar musician Wyclef Jean, a native of Haiti, has helped raise over $400,000 for his native country, thanks to text-message donations. Jean and the Miami-based Give On The Go campaign joined forces to encourage people from around the world to send a text message of ‘Yele’ to 501501 on their mobile device which would then charge $5 to the donor’s cellular phone bill.

Although a similar way to donate is also being done through the Red Cross, Give On The Go president Matt McKenna said that a higher percentage of the donation will actually reach those in need via his non-profit because the Red Cross has a larger overhead to cover. ‘About 91% of every gift’ aids the victims of the earthquake, McKenna told The Times via telephone.


‘Our goal is to raise $1 million per day for the sufferers of this catastrophe,’ McKenna declared, noting that Twitter has been abuzz with people urging each other to ‘text Yele’.

The high volume of tweets inspired Twitter co-founder Ev Williams to ask via tweet (naturally), ‘I wonder what % of people tweeting to text a donation to Haiti have done so themselves. That’s not meant to be cynicism, just curiosity.’ Later Williams added, ‘The optimistic view: The desire to pass on the message may inspire a greater likelihood of acting on it oneself, having a multiplying effect.’

Along those lines, McKenna said that many celebrities and musicians are being organized, and a charity concert appears to be in the works. ‘It’s really gonna blow up over the next couple of days. Thank God we were in place to be involved in this,’ he said.

‘I cannot stress enough what a human disaster this is, and idle hands will only make this tragedy worse,’ Jean said in a statement released earlier today.

-- Tony Pierce

Photo gallery: Earthquake hits Haiti | Twitter: Reports from Haiti | Resources: How to help

Top photo: Hundreds of people remain in a public square for security reasons or after having lost their homes in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, the day after Tuesday’s magnitude 7 quake. Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive quantified the number of dead at ‘well over 100,000,’ while Haitian President Rene Preval spoke of possibly tens of thousands. Credit: Orlando Barria / European Pressphoto Agency