Tuesday, March 23, 2010

'Maine Friends of Haiti' is her way of pitching in

Portland Press Herald -

March 13

A Web site to link Maine resources for Haiti aid uses Mary Doyle's media skills.

By David Henchdhench@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

Mary Doyle doesn't have medical expertise or a lot of disposable income for charitable donations, but she wanted to do her part for the people of Haiti and the Mainers who are helping there.

She does have a knack for bringing people together and developing Web sites, so she tapped those skills to create the Maine Friends of Haiti Web site.

The site lists the large number of Maine groups working to help the people affected by the Caribbean nation's devastating earthquake, which hit Jan. 12, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving 1.5 million more homeless.

"I tried to think of something that could be helpful," Doyle said. "There was no Web site or group that was tying all the different efforts together."

With her background in public relations and photography, Doyle decided she could help promote the good work being done by so many Maine groups and also highlight the options available for people who want to support the recovery effort.

Willy LeBihan, founder of the French School of Maine in Freeport, said the concept helps connect the disparate groups working to help and could boost donations by educating people about all the different efforts under way.

"I think it is a wonderful idea, so people get a sense that the effort is not isolated and it creates a sense of community, of people working for the same goal," said LeBihan.

In its schools section, the site lists the French school's effort to rebuild a school for 740 students in Jacmel, outside Port-au-Prince. The Haitian school was destroyed in the earthquake and though all the students were able to escape, the principal's wife was killed, LeBihan said.

LeBihan believes the site will make it easier for donors to find specific initiatives they feel strongly about, which will help overall fundraising.

Doyle, who lives in West Newfield in York County, designed her first Web site as a mechanism to inform people about unique hostels in Ireland, after a trip there to visit her son. Through that, she learned about the power of the Internet in reaching people, and the benefits of collecting in one place disparate information that would take the average person a long time to discover on their own.

Every time Doyle becomes aware of a group working on earthquake relief, she asks them if they would like to have a link and description of their group or event added to the site. She has sent e-mails to every school superintendent in the state offering to include students efforts on behalf Haiti on the Friends of Haiti Web site.

The site also includes a calendar of upcoming Haiti-related events statewide and a link to a slideshow of submitted images of volunteers working in Haiti and Mainers holding benefits here.

There is no charge and Doyle earns no money from the site.

"I'm a person who feels groups should all try to work together. It could be so much more effective if efforts are collaborative," she said.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: dhench@pressherald.com

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