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March 01, 2010

World News

Answering the Call: Direct Sellers Aid Earthquake Relief Efforts in Haiti

by Whitney Allen


Haiti by the Numbers

  • 27,750 square kilometers (10,714 square miles)—about the size of Maryland
  • 9,035,536 residents, taking into account a high death rate due to AIDS
  • 2 million people live in areas hardest hit by the earthquake
  • 60.78 years, life expectancy at birth
  • 80 percent live below the poverty line
  • 53 percent literacy rate
  • 20.2 years, median age
  • 66 percent work in agriculture

Source: “CIA—The World Factbook,” CIA.gov 

On the evening of Jan.12, an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.0 struck Haiti in the highly populated area of Department Ouest, 10 miles from Port-au-Prince. The initial quake was followed by a series of aftershocks in the days after, including one of magnitude 6.0 in Gressier, west of Port-au-Prince. Described by The New York Times as the worst earthquake to hit the nation in more than 200 years, the disaster has created social and economic crises in the already-fragile nation. Haitians living in “shantytowns” and poorly constructed buildings were among the hardest hit, leaving even the local Red Cross overwhelmed by the need for water, food, medicine and basic hygienic items.

It was no surprise, then, when direct selling businesses began answering the poverty-stricken country’s pleas for help. Much like their response to the May 2008 earthquake in China, aiding Haiti seemed natural for an industry that prides itself on its compassion.

SeneGence created a special Solutions for Haiti Collection, donating 20 percent of the collection’s February sales to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Relìv donated contributions to their Relìv Kalogris Foundation to assist the country and provide nearly 8,000 Haitian children with nutritional supplements daily. USANA Health Sciences began working with the Children’s Hunger Fund, sending supplements and financial assistance to help with recovery. Nikken International demonstrated its corporate philosophy of helping the global community by contributing $70,000 to help the Red Cross with their efforts.

Another direct seller, Neways, sent 6,000 personal-care products to earthquake survivors by teaming with Globus Relief, a nonprofit with a focus on providing medical and healthcare supplies to people in need. Wound-care and pain-management products seller RBC Life Sciences contributed 100,000 sterile dressings to help those with burns and abrasions.

“Cleaning and properly treating wounds is critical following such a devastating tragedy,” said RBC Life Sciences President and CEO John W. Price. “Infected or exposed wounds can trigger life-threatening problems. We’re happy to join the global wound-care community in providing the care that so many of the survivors need.”

Beauty company Avon Products Inc., through its Avon Foundation for Women, committed $1 million to the relief efforts of the American Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, organizations on the ground in Haiti. “Disaster relief has long been a critical component of Avon’s philanthropy,” said Andrea Jung, Avon Chairman and CEO. “I believe it is our responsibility, as a global corporate citizen, to lend our support to the relief efforts aiding the people of Haiti.”

Amway also promised to donate financial resources to the Red Cross, matching donations up to $100,000 made by Amway independent business owners and employees through the company’s Web site. “We are fully committed to offering assistance quickly and meaningfully,” said Jim Hunking, Managing Director of Amway Operations in the Caribbean. “Our IBOs and employees have always responded generously in the past, and we look forward to their support again.”

Additionally, Amway devoted their corporate aircraft to carrying supplies and medical personnel to the disaster areas; made a donation of 10,000 personal hygiene kits to the International Aid and World Vision nonprofits; and dedicated long-term aid to Haitian children through its One by One Campaign for Children.

Inspired by actress Alyssa Milano’s UNICEF Haiti Tweet Challenge to donate $50,000 to the Haiti Relief Fund, MonaVie challenged their distributors to donate twice that amount by Jan. 29. Jan. 28, the company announced on their Facebook page that they had reached their goal of raising $100,000.

Health and wellness direct seller Isagenix made a donation of 45,000 canisters of its IsaLean shakes—the equivalent of about 1.2 million meals—to Stop Hunger Now, an organization with a history of providing Haitians meals and bottled water. And CyberWize donated $25,000 worth of their Bug BeGone herbal insect repellent sprays and balms to Agape Flights, a Florida-based charity.

For Neways Communications Coordinator Megan Lavin, whose husband has family in Haiti affected by the Jan. 12 quake, her company’s donation is a way for her to touch loved ones’ lives. “It adds extra meaning to know that my company’s products will be benefiting people so close to my heart,” she said. “It helps me feel like I was able to contribute and add my small part.”

“Our hearts go out to the victims, and we will be there to help Haiti recover from this tragedy and put the country back together,” said Amway’s Hunking, echoing a sentiment shared throughout the industry.