Text messages raise $4 million for Haiti relief

Disaster struck Haiti as a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed an estimated 50,000 people Tuesday.

Caption. (AP photo)
A 7.0 magnitude earthquake has killed an estimated 50,000 people in Haiti. (AP photo)

Although no members of the St. Thomas community were in Haiti on Tuesday, an estimated 45,000 Americans were in the country at the time of the earthquake.

“It’s just really devastating to have a country that’s already that poor have a tragedy of that magnitude,” junior Jimmy Feeks said. “If this was the United States, it would be a huge tragedy. But at least we’d have the resources to deal with something like that.”

The Red Cross’ latest press release asks mobile users to donate $10 by text messaging the word “Haiti” to the number 90999. The $10 donation will be charged to next month’s cell phone bill.

Americans have responded and as of Thursday, mobile donations have surpassed $4 million, making it the largest donation via mobile devices in history, according to ABCNews.com. More than $400,000 was donated by mobile devices for Hurricane Katrina relief.

“It’s a good business move on their part, especially the people with their phones now a days,” senior Joe Locascio said. “It’s a good way to donate $10, and the fact that it’s $10 instead of $50 or $100, more people will do it.”

“It’s a great idea because I could see myself getting really into it, and be like ‘Yeah, I’m going to do this,’” junior Clare Naughton said. “Then text and not realize I actually spent money.”

Although sophomore Martim Quayat believes the donations are needed, he said this is not a fair way of raising money.

“People act by impulse so they may see that and say ‘Oh, no, I have to donate.’ They would go and just donate right away and they may regret it,” Quayat said. “So they actually may take an action that’s not the true thing of what they want to do.”

Haitian native and singer Wyclef Jean is raising money in a similar way by asking mobile users to donate $5 to the Yele Haiti earthquake fund by texting “Yele” to 501501. ABCNews.com said he has already received 200,000 donations totaling $1 million.

Michael Ewen can be reached at mtewen@stthomas.edu