IN TIMES OF CRISIS, WHO CAN YOU REALLY TRUST?
I do not have a final total of the generosity of the Catholic people to Haiti from the special week-end collections of the last few week-ends, but I am willing to bet it will be somewhere in the vicinity of one million dollars and rising. Keep your eye here for the latest totals. As you know I asked that all donations be sent to CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES through the diocesan Finance Office but parishes with twinning relationships with parishes in Haiti could and should be guided by the needs of those parishes. In either case, the amounts forwarded would be included in our total diocesan effort. We advanced $250,000 to CRS on the second day to get them started and they set aside an immediate five million for the beginning Haiti effort.
Now to the question raised in the title of this post. The media are infatuated in every disaster with the “big” names among the non-profits who have huge “PR” departments which spring into action with the first news of trouble and make the reporters’ jobs easier by feeding them with stories, pictures, etc. So one will always see the RED CROSS, SAVE THE CHILDREN, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM, SALVATION ARMY and the like saturating the coverage of the relief efforts, especially in their early going. These agencies serve a purpose and do a good job but they often spend a sizable amount of money in fund-raising, public-relations, and they throw a lot of money and material into what appear to the viewer to be the basic necessities. They serve a purpose, but sometimes are among the first to leave when the media moves on to cover something else somewhere else in the world. That was my expedience in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia after the tsunami and the deaths there. There and in Haiti, seldom mentioned, but primary and effective care deliverers are organizations such as the US Navy, the Australian Army (in Indonesia) and neighboring nations. They deserve a lot of credit.
But within a week, smaller, very effective aid agencies begin to get their “sea legs” and start making a difference which will last a long time: CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES, MEDICINES SAN FRONTIERES or “Doctors Without Borders” (which is one of my favorites) and CHURCH WORLD SERVICES. Flashy, no. Effective, extremely-choosing geographical areas in which to concentrate they cooperate and do not compete. In Haiti, there is room for everyone and hopefully everyone will stay until the end and the job is completed. So don’t be lulled into thinking that only the big names get things done. Most of the long-term relief and redevelopment efforts will be best accomplished by those who spend the lease to blow their own horns and the most on the suffering.