Haitian Help’em

by , Jan 16, 2010 | 10:56 am

The entire world got a reminder about life, death, and nature this week … the Haiti earthquake gave us all at least a bit of pause to find ourselves, at least momentarily, caring about people we didn’t think we cared about.

We know how charitable poker players can be — it’s our one saving grace — and I’m sure at least a few of you have made donations already toward some humanitarian relief. PokerStars has set up “dummy tournaments” and accounts where players can transfer money to help the cause … funds the online poker site will match and send to the Red Cross. Likewise, Calvin Ayre has issued a $1 million matching-donation challenge to the entire online gambling industry.

With all the donating options out there — and the ever-present uncertainty over the difference between efficient humanitarian aid and exploitive charitable graft — I just wanted to weigh in and give a thumbs-up to one specific Haitian charity that I personally know does meaningful work AND has a little poker in its blood.

It’s called Project Medishare. They’re a bunch of doctors and volunteers who since 1995 have provided medical services, equipment, and training to some of the poorest villages in Haiti. Currently, they’re flying in trauma surgeons while helping coordinate relief with Haitian officials. And their chief blogger chronicling these efforts and helping drive online donations got her web-media start in poker.

photo: Jennifer Browning / 2006

Jen Browning cut her blogging teeth working for PartyPoker, PokerBlog.com, and GutShot — for whom she covered two WSOPs. (She also has published many photos in European poker magazines.) But watching a bunch of fat guys carelessly shove 10s of thousands of dollars around wasn’t quite her thing, I suppose … and after a couple volunteer trips to Haiti’s central plateau with Project Medishare, she realized a relatively small charity’s cause could greatly benefit from the same kinda of coverage dedicated to poker pilgrimmages … and thus she launched the Project Medishare blog in 2007. The site has proven to be a great way to for the charity to show its work in action, encourage donations, and, by facilitating partnerships with universities and hospitals looking to volunteer, you know, essentially grow their game.

But to be sure, Jen didn’t totally abandon poker in pursuit of blogging about stuff that’s actually important. As seen in the above pic, she brought the game with her to Haiti — teaching poker to the workers at a Project Medishare clinic in Thomonde. They played a slightly different version of the game, however — “Haitian Hold’em” has only one blind, and kickers don’t count … so there are a lot of chopped pots.

Anyhow, if you have no reason to choose one charity over another, I can personally attest that Project Medishare does great work and the money goes directly to a good cause where you can see the results semi-live on a blog that arguably wouldn’t be what it is today were it not for lessons learned and experience gained at the World Series of Poker.

Project Medishare’s efforts since the Earthquake are evolving day-by-day, even hour-by-hour. All their workers and volunteers survived uninjured, and have been rushing equipment and personnel to the most troubled parts of Haiti. On the ground there, the founders have met with the President of Haiti and the First Lady in an effort to most effectively get US trauma surgeons to places most in need. Back in the US, their leaders have put together Save Haiti Saturday — a partnership with the University of Miami, the Miami Heat, and a bunch of local businesses — encouraging companies and individuals to donate a percentage of today’s revenues to the effort.

Money is what these people need, and Project Medishare knows how to make good, immediate use of it. You can Insta-donate via PayPal here:

And hey, if you don’t believe my endorsement, believe Lenny Kravitz’s:

One Comment to “Haitian Help’em”

  1. DanM

    Hey, I just saw the doctor in that pic on Geraldo! Go life-saving poker players!