Industry rallies as Haiti toll rises to 230,000

By Administrator |

Following the devastating January 12 earthquake in Haiti which has now claimed some 230,000 lives, the travel retail industry has launched a major charity initiative called 'Hand in Hand for Haiti', which aims to create

and improve educational facilities for children in Haiti, with best-in-class academic standards, bi-lingual education in French and English, underpinned by long-term funding through the creation of a not-for-profit private foundation.

The initiative is the creation and has the backing of DFS Group Chairman and Ceo Ed Brennan, Olivier Bottrie, President of The Est?e Lauder Companies Travel Retail Worldwide and Martin Moodie of The Moodie Report and amazingly it has already raised $800,000 in one week since it was launched, with the ultimate aim of raising $1.5m or more.

The 'Hand in Hand for Haiti' endeavour is now aiming to open a primary school by September of this year under the guidance of a steering committee comprising Ed Brennan, Olivier Bottrie and Martin Moodie.

Bottrie – whose wife Alexandra is Haitian – says that the Foundation will be operated with strict governance principles, processes and control mechanisms, along with strong financial discipline, with the aim of creating a world-class educational facility and opportunity for generations of Haitian children to come.

He adds that the primary school will comprise of a clinic, a kitchen and a cafeteria, along with a playground – and if possible – some sporting facilities. The aim is to feed the children twice a day, provide teacher training and accommodation – if that is what it takes to retain their services to the school.

Brennan adds that he is convinced that a concerted effort by the travel retail industry can make a real difference here.

He says that the process of applying for the necessary status to establish and designate Hand in Hand for Haiti as a US tax-exempt, non-profit organization is underway, with the aim of total transparency and strong financial controls that will be overseen by a board of directors. Brennan also adds that 100% of the funds raised will support the school project.

DOUG NEWHOUSE WRITES: The fact that the Travel Retail Business and The Moodie Report compete with each other on a daily basis is totally irrelevant when it comes to cooperating on initiatives like this and I am proud of our management's long-track record in both highlighting and supporting worthy causes, as well as making our own donations to industry and other causes.

The travel retail industry as a whole has always been a very benevolent community when it comes to responding to tragedies and this has been evident from its great ongoing efforts to help The Smile Train, the recent TFWA 'Heart 2 Art' initiative and many other initiatives taken on by individual companies themselves – both retailers and suppliers.

Indeed, this has been a decade where the loss of lives through natural and human-cause events has been monumental and the response from the travel retail industry has been great. One only has to look back at the Bali bombings in 2002 and Sri Lanka's terrible tsunami in 2004 as evidence, with that latter tragedy claiming no less than 280,000 lives – a figure that the Haitian earthquake's 230,000 death toll is not far off and may sadly well exceed. The people in Sri Lanka had nothing following the tsunami and the same is now true for masses in Haiti.

While Haiti's debts have now been written off by the Group of Seven's world's richest countries, it still needs massive help if it is going to recover from last month's earthquake. But most importantly, the people need to have hope. The travel retail industry has responded to all of these aforementioned tragedies in the past with great dignity – when times were good and not so good for the business – and I hope that it will feel able to help again on this occasion.

Many in the industry like me will doubtless have already personally contributed as individuals to some of the appeals that were launched immediately after the earthquake struck, while many executives will have already asked their companies for money to support other appeals this year.

But my point here is that it is not the amount(s) of money contributed by individuals or their companies that is important, because all contributions are vital – including my 12-year old daughter's separate ?2.00 that she donated to an aid agency yesterday, along with many of her school friends who did the same.

It is the fact that this 'Hand in Hand for Haiti' charity effort is being ring-fenced to ensure that as much of the money donated actually reaches the project itself – and ultimately the children – that makes the difference. This was also the case with the tsunami appeal where so much good work was done building a new village, with those travel retail donations kept right away from local influences who might cynically try to dilute or divert them.

With this in mind, any company or individual who wants to help – however small or big – can make a difference in this instance by making a donation pledge at the following link: www.handinhandforhaiti.com/

Many thanks for your attention,
Doug Newhouse, Editor, TREND and the Travel Retail Business magazine.

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