Showing posts from January, 2010

Needs & Offers for Haitian Relief

VisionLink has launched a web-based Needs & Offers management solution for PQMD, the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations, to help with their relief efforts in Haiti.

PQMD helps to coordinate the work of pharmascetical firms and nonprofit partners around the world who provide more than $4 billion dollars in medical equipment, medicines, and other related contributions to more than 150 nations around the world every year.

As the earthquake struck Haiti, members of the partnership have been quick to respond--a response which has been complicated by the lack of basic infrastructure in Haiti.  The bottlenecks at the airport, the main port, and the state of the roadways have all added to the challenge.

At the request of PQMD, VisionLink quickly developed a solution to capture information about Needs and information about donor Offers, and the tools to connect them.   While this is not the full Gifts in Kind solution we are building as a major component of our Community Operating System, it's a great example of how our flexible architecture supports rapidly deployed, customized solutions.  And given the diverse and ongoing needs in Haiti, it is simply an honor to be a part of the solution. 

Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

2-1-1 Maine Partners with CDC

We are pleased to report that one of our customers, 2-1-1 Maine, has partnered with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to share vital information for state residents.

By using resource information managed in CommunityOS, VisionLink and 2-1-1 Maine partnered to set up a feed of much-needed and valuable health-related information that can be found not only in 2-1-1 Maine's CommunityOS solution (, but also on an external website created by government partners (

This gives residents quick and easy access to targeted health-related information. By participating in an initaitive spearheaded by Governor Baldacci's Office and the CDC, 2-1-1 Maine has further strengthened local partnerships and are supporting residents in powerful and innovative ways.

This is an important example of how the value of resource information expands as it is exchanged and delivered through multiple channels.

The launch of this significant work was announced as part of Governor's Baldacci's State of the State address last evening, which can be found here:  Gov's Address

Congratulations to the 2-1-1 Maine team.  Well done!

Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

Martin Luther King Day - Let Freedom Ring

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I'd direct you to Let Freedom Ring, written by Stan Stahl (and included below.)  I was able to meet Stan some years ago when we were both working on a project to support youth and their successful education and employment.  Stan has years of commercial security expertise, and yet he turns out to be a gifted writer.  His comments for Martin Luther King Day are included below, and the link to his blog above will take you to the half dozen or so essays he does annually.  Amazingly powerful insights on America and our role building this nation.


Martin Luther King Day, 2010

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability,
but comes through continuous struggle.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

I remember when I discovered my own racism. It was in a small town in northeastern Ohio, six months after my ex-wife and I adopted our son, Jonathan.

Adopting Jonathan—an African-American—was an act of faith in America, in the dream that “one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

Three and a half years before we adopted Jonathan, Cathy and I had sat together, tears streaming down our faces, when we heard the news that Martin Luther King had been shot in Memphis. Our hearts might have been broken that night, but we kept the faith that our child, like Martin Luther King’s own four children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

And here I was in this small town in Ohio, the white father of a 9-month old African-American baby, becoming aware of my own racism. These are the important moments, when we come up against who we are.

What I saw that day was indeed racism; the racism that is buried deep in the American psyche. But it was so much more than just Black-White and White-Black racism that I saw that day. The racism I saw is only the tip of an iceberg. Beneath the water, what I saw is a fundamental element of our common human character.

Racism exists to separate us, one from another. 50,000 years ago, after we left our African homeland, our hunter-gatherer ancestors would periodically “bump into each other.” The result was often war, often resulting in the enslavement or annihilation of one side or the other. In those days it was necessary to feel stone cold hatred for your enemy, for how else could you kill him. And if you did not kill him, it would be you who would die.

In the battle to secure their own survival, our ancestors had to learn to hate those who were different from us. Racism has been in every culture ever since. Humans can no more escape the racism in our cultures than we can escape the carcinogens in the air we breathe.

King understood just how deeply racism is buried in the human soul. He reminded us that the end to racism would not come on wheels of inevitability, but would come only through continuous struggle.

The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

King also understood that there was something else in our souls, something buried every bit as deep as our collective racism, a weapon powerful enough to defeat racism.

Surviving against our enemies 50,000 years ago not only required you to hate your enemy; survival also required that you love your own tribe every bit as much as you hated your enemy. It was not your survival after all that mattered; what mattered was the survival of your tribe. Others might sacrifice their life for you; you must be prepared to do the same for them. From this was born the Golden Rule, the one moral rule found in every religion on this Earth.

If fear and hatred of each other is our species’ original sin, then the Golden Rule is our salvation.

King recognized—perhaps more clearly than anyone before him—how deeply the Golden Rule is embedded in America’s creed ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

By holding a mirror to the ideals of America, King forced America to confront the question who do we mean by all men? Was all men to include all men or were there to continue to be two classes of Americans, one created more equal than the other? Just who is to be allowed to pursue the American Dream? Just who is our neighbor that we are commanded to love? Blacks? Women? Gays and Lesbians? The result is not inevitable. The struggle continues. The dream endures.

This is not just America’s struggle, America’s dream. This struggle, this dream, belongs to the world. As the world grows smaller, as we get to know each other, our 50,000 year old fear and hatred of others is bumping up against 50,000 years of the Golden Rule.

We see the tragic consequences when fear and hatred win out over the Golden Rule in places like the Middle East, Iran, North Korea, Darfur, Zimbabwe, and Myanmar. The terrorists bent on destroying our way of life know only how to hate; they have not learned to love.

But we also see the glorious results when the peoples of free nations live in accordance with the Golden Rule, for what is government of the people, by the people and for the people but the Golden Rule applied to political power. The Blessings of Liberty are nothing but the logical outcome of the Golden Rule, just as the current recession is the inevitable outcome when avarice and greed come to trump the Golden Rule.

In December of 1964, Martin Luther King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize with words of faith that are as necessary today as they were 45 years ago.

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind.

I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.

I refuse to accept the idea that the "-isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

 I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.

I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.

I still believe that We Shall Overcome!

This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom.

When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.

We miss you more than ever, Martin. America and the world need you more than ever. Even as the tears continue to roll down our cheeks, we keep faith with your memory. For your faith, Martin, is our North Star.

Let freedom ring.

URLs for Haitian Relief Agencies

You may find this list of relief agencies useful, as you build links on your CommunityOS site to help the people of Haiti.  These are not listed in any particular order.

The U.S. State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747.

The American Red Cross is providing food, water, temporary shelter, medical services and emotional support, coordinated through the International Red Cross.

• The United Way has created a special Haitian relief fund, focused on long-term recovery and to address educational, financial and health-related challenges.

Haitian Timoun Foundation directly supports children in Haiti, and is focusing attention on Jacmel, another community suffering greatly from the earthquake.

UNICEF requests donations for relief for children in Haiti via their Haiti Earthquake Fund.

Operation USA is appealing for donations of funds from the public and corporate donations in bulk of health care materials, water purification supplies and food supplements.

Save The Children has launched an emergency relief effort for Haiti to provide medical attention and clean water to children and families.

International Medical Corps is assembling a team of first responders and resources to provide lifesaving medical care and other emergency services to survivors of the earthquake.

Partners In Health reports that its temporary field hospital needs supplies, pain meds, bandages.

Mercy Corps is sending a team of emergency responders to assess damage, and seek to fulfill immediate needs of quake survivors.

• Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres is now asking donors to give to their general unrestricted fund.

Direct Reliefis committing up to $1 million in aid for the response and is coordinating with its other in-country partners and colleague organizations.

Oxfam is rushing in teams from around the region to respond to the situation to provide clean water, shelter, sanitation and help people recover.

• The Baptist Haiti Mission is operating an 82-bed hospital that is "overflowing with injured."

International Medical Corps is assembling a team of first responders and resources to provide lifesaving medical care and other emergency services to survivors of the earthquake.

Catholic Relief Services made an immediate commitment of $5 million for emergency supplies. They are distributing food and relief supplies, and importing plastic sheeting, mosquito nets and water purification tablets.

• Give to the American Jewish World Service's Earthquake Relief Fund.

CARE is deploying emergency team members to Port-au-Prince to assist in recovery efforts. They're focusing their efforts on the health of children, distributing water sanitation tablets, food, hygiene kits and emergency healthcare.

Orphans International America reports that they have been able to make contact with their program director in the town of Jacmel, a city about 20 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince that houses OI's hospitals and schools.  You can contribute to them through PayPal.

The International Rescue Committee is deploying an emergency response team to Haiti to deliver urgent assistance to earthquake survivors and to help overwhelmed local aid groups struggling to meet the immense emergency needs. They will focus on critical medical, water and sanitation assistance. Donate to the IRC Haiti Crisis Fund.

NetHope is coordinating its response with its NGO member agencies and with the UN's Emergency Telecom Cluster to establish connectivity in Haiti.

World Vision has more 370 staff in the country. Staff members from less-affected regions of Haiti are mobilizing, and World Vision's global experts are expected to arrive in the disaster zone as soon as possible.

The Jewish Federations of North America is partnering with the American Jewish Joint Distribution committee and have created a dedicated Haiti Relief page for online donations.

United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is the UN's humanitarian fund responding to emergencies like the earthquake in Haiti. Donate online.

Friends of the Orphans will use donations to meet the needs of first responders such as first aid supplies, shipping of necessary materials to assist in efforts, and treating the injured. Those interested in helping the relief effort can visit

Merlin USA is sending an emergency response team out to the region and have subsequently launched an emergency appeal to bring urgent medical aid and assistance to those affected.

The Salvation Army has staff on the ground and already the organization has set aside $50,000 in direct aid to the country but the organization is in need of additional donations.

• The American Refugee Committee is sending a response team to provide water, sanitation, and shelter for earthquake survivors. Donate online or read about their volunteer opportunities.

AmeriCares has pledged $5 million in aid in the wake of the catastrophe and is sending an emergency shipment with $3 million worth of medicines and supplies for earthquake survivors.

Handicap International will provide care to those injured by the earthquake and its aftershocks, including support to hospitals for essential post-surgery and rehabilitation care, as well as emergency shelter, emergency basic needs and food distribution for at least 5,000 people initially.

Episcopal Relief & Development has committed to providing Haiti both long and short-term support in the wake of the disaster.

We will update this list as we learn more.

Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

Donor Ideas for Haitian Relief

With this entry, we are responding to questions from several of our customers about possible ideas for donors who want to give in meaningful and more personal ways, to the people of Haiti.

Given the lack of infrastructure in Haiti, the situation will certainly become worse before it improves. The long-term need will be extraordinarily dire. A few issues to consider:

A large number of Americans may repatriate to the States. They may need assistance on their return.

A large number of the Haitian people may need to immigrate to the US or other locations, as their future in Haiti may be seriously compromised, beyond what was a difficult existence even before the quake hit.

In the short term, there are needs well beyond Port-au-Prince. In fact, from personal contacts in Jacmel, I know that there are other cities and villages across Haiti that need tremendous help such as Jacmel, even as the media focuses on Port-au-Prince. If you want to be put in touch with the schools and orphanages in Jacmel, contact me directly.

Given past experiences with Katrina and the Tsunami, relief organizations will be extremely interested in a coordinated response. The lack of infrastructure and mounting security issues will push back against coordination. Frustration will mount, and this will make the long-term nature of this disaster increasingly challenging, and all the more important.

Users of the VisionLink CommunityOS solution may want to consider capturing donor interest now, but in a way that collects resources for needs in the months ahead, or for focused areas of Haiti, or for particular beneficiaries. Focus makes donations more meaningful. The needs are so significant that the particular selection of a focus is less important than the donations such focus encourages. You can use your Content Management Pages to quickly deploy messaging as you choose to your users. In a previous post, we offered a link to White House information about helping those in Haiti that can be easily embedded on your sites.

On the technical front, we are working with customers such as the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations to rapidly deploy specific enhancements that they need to support the Haitian-focused work of their members. The membership of PQMD is providing literally millions in medicine, equipment, medical supplies, and cash as I write this. We are honored to support their work.

We will share more as we learn more.

Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Embed this How to Help Haiti Link on Your Site

Here is a link to a White House Web Page that summarizes how your users and Community Operating System visitors can respond to the needs in Haiti.

The link takes you to a web page that shows both what will be displayed, and the code which you can embed in your CommunityOS content management page(s) to create the link automatically.

Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Earthquake in Haiti

As with many other individuals and organizations, we extend our support to the people of Haiti as the magnitude of the disaster becomes apparent.

Our staff is working with various disaster-related VisionLink customers to provide appropriate technology, including offers for contributed solutions.

Based on our experience in disaster relief, I would remind readers that most relief organizations need monetary donations more than anything. The funds allow them to acquire and deploy what is needed most quickly and effectively. Donated goods, unless explicitly requested, are often a burden to the relief supply chain.

The scope of this disaster, and the lack of basic infrastructure in Haiti means that recovery will be a very long and highly challenging effort. We stand ready to assist.

Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.