Notes from the Road: St. John

I’m spending this week exploring the United States Virgin Island of St. John.

Hopefully, once I return, I’ll pen my reflections in the form of a blog post, but in the meantime, here are a few things that I’d recommend to someone travelling to the island:

  • BRING YOUR PASSPORT. There are day trips to some of the British Virgin Islands like Jost Van Dyke and sans passport, your excursion opportunities become limited.
  • A GPS will come in handy. St. John is incredibly hilly and its easy to get lost. Luckily, I had my iPhone on hand and have been using it quite a bit to get around the island.
  • If you’ve got four people and are renting a car, the four door Jeep is worth it… The two-door Jeep creates quite a challenging workout for the two riding in the back.
  • On a map, it might look like there are three ways to get from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay or vice versa, but in fact there’s only one – take Route 10 (also known as Centerline Road).

Ways To Support Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts

After the initial shock of the news about the recent earthquake in Haiti wore off, my next thought was, how can I lend my support?

My immediate instinct was to do donate to The Red Cross since the organization’s mobile giving campaign (where participants can simply text a number to have a $10 donation be added to their next phone bill) was getting so much press coverage.

However, Vicki Boykis pointed me to the comments in this Reddit post that caused me to take a step back and re-evalute my decision. What the comments highlight and what I’ve found in my research is that The Red Cross, while a recognizable name, is not a great organization to support. It’s inefficient and too little of the money ends up going to relief efforts.

It seems that organizations like Doctors Without Borders and Partners In Health are able to put donations to much better use.

I urge everyone to support the relief efforts in Haiti in any way they can but please remember to check the credibility and effectiveness of the various charitable organizations out there. Good questions to ask include:

  • Is this a legit organization? (Check with the Better Business Bureau to be sure.)
  • What percentage of expenses goes to Program Services versus Fundraising or Administration? (Charity Navigator can provide this information and has a rating system for charities.)
  • Will my donation go specifically to Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts or is it just a general donation to the organization?

- WHERE TO SUPPORT HAITI (LISTS FROM AROUND THE WEB) –

In case you are looking for more organizations that are raising donations to respond to the crisis, here are some aggregated lists from around the web that maybe useful to you:

- WANT TO DO MORE? –

CrisisCamp Haiti will take place this Saturday, January 16th from 9:00am to 5:00pm in Washington, DC. CrisisCamp will bring together volunteers to collaborate on technology projects which aim to assist in Haiti’s relief efforts by providing data, information, maps and technical assistance to NGOs, relief agencies and the public. Register here.

Matador, an online community of travelers, adventurers, and grassroots organizations, is organizing a volunteer trip to Haiti. Learn more here. (Thanks to @VastuDC for the tip.)

- DISCREDITED RUMORS –

In an age where there is so much information readily available to all, there’s also a lot of misinformation that circulates. A few rumors that I’ve heard and later found to be false:

  • American Airlines IS NOT flying doctors and/or nurses for free to Haiti.
  • UPS IS NOT shipping supplies for free to Haiti.