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Rallying for Haiti

After the worst earthquake in more than 200 years struck Haiti on January 12, people in the Diocese of Orange in California—as in many other dioceses around the country—rallied to raise money and support the emergency relief response. Shirl Giacomi, who is chancellor of the diocese as well as CRS' diocesan director there, recently talked about the diocese's tremendous efforts with Kim Pozniak, a communications officer for Catholic Relief Services.

Students at Santa Margarita Catholic High School

People in the Diocese of Orange in California, organized fundraisers in their schools and parishes. Students at Santa Margarita Catholic High School raised more than $6,000 for CRS' relief efforts. Photo courtesy of Santa Margarita Catholic High School

Kim Pozniak:
What was the reaction in your diocese when people first heard about the earthquake in Haiti?
Shirl Giacomi:

The staff and parishioners began calling to see if we would be taking up a second collection as soon as they saw the scope of destruction. Whenever there is a disaster, our parishioners say that they feel more comfortable knowing that their donations are going through CRS and that they will be used appropriately. People began calling and offering their services.

What did schools and parishes do in order to raise funds to support the relief efforts?

The schools became very creative and we had hearts, hands, shoes, jeans, favorite team jerseys, hoops, coins, hope, and hats for Haiti campaigns.

One school, Connelly High School in Anaheim, used its parent-student notification phone system very effectively. After hearing the news of the quake, the chair of Connelly's religious studies department called the Connelly community to action. She and another instructor went to each classroom to speak to the girls about the catastrophic destruction caused by the earthquake and recorded a plea that was sent via phone to each of the school's 260 students.

The campus responded in force, and the school collected checks, bills and even coins during the eight-day mission. Every day, students emptied their wallets into collection baskets and gave up hard-earned savings in acts of sacrificial giving. They also banded together putting on impromptu bake sales.

The school's families more than quadrupled the initial collection from the students and staff, and within 24 hours, the school had collected $4,880. They then decided to extend the donation drive for several more days because Connelly community members continued to give and wanted their contributions to be included.

What stood out the most to you about the response of your diocese?

I have traveled with CRS and have seen firsthand the way that CRS works on behalf of Catholics in the United States. We can be confident and proud of the work being done in our name.
~Shirl Giacomi


Because of the visual reinforcement so prevalent in the early days after the quake through media outlets, the people were as committed to helping our brothers and sisters in Haiti as I've ever seen. We all learned a great deal about the poverty of this neighboring country. One such example of solidarity was a little boy who, when he learned of the shoe drive his school was conducting for another organization, sat right down and took off his shoes and placed them in the bin. That spirit characterized the way that the people of the Diocese of Orange responded.

As a diocesan director for CRS, what would you like our supporters to know about how their donations are being used?


Since most of the secular media coverage has ceased or is very limited now, we have been posting regular updates on our web page and have sent out bulletin announcements and e-mail updates through the priests so that they are informed about what is now taking place. We know that much of the emergency relief has switched to the "build it back better" approach and I want the people to know that their money is being used cautiously and wisely. It is easy for me to keep the news network going because I have traveled with CRS and have seen firsthand the way that CRS works on behalf of Catholics in the United States. We can be confident and proud of the work being done in our name.

Learn more about CRS' response to the earthquake in Haiti.

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