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Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti- Think Before you Donate, but Do Donate

Today there was a 6.0 earthquake in Guatemala. It fell as a 3.0 here in San Salvador when it woke me up this morning. After gathering my wits and realizing it was just a little tremble, relatively, I again thought about Haiti.

I cannot impress upon the chaos and insanity of the landslides in El Salvador that killed only 200. And it seriously felt like the apocaplyse. and is still pretty chaotic for thousands of families, but i will leave that to another blog post.

Haiti is poorer than El Salvador. The only country more deforested than El Salvador in this hemisphere. This earthquake, with a death toll of 200,000, is one of the worst unnatural disasters the world has ever seen. Again, there is no natural disaster. A 7.0 earthquake does not have to kill 200,000 people. The technology to build earthquake proof buildings has existed since the Mexico City quake in 1986. The technology is there, the money has never been for Haiti.

We must ask ourselves: If an earthquake like this say...Philly. Would 200,000 die? would the government fall apart? WHY did this happen to HAITI?!?!

My experience in El Salvador tells ms that small NGOs could use donations well- small NGOs usually can get to folks fastest. larger NGOs come in later. My NGO of choice is Visitation Hospital. if you live in the indianapolis area, send checks to:

Joe Zelenka
251 W. 49th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46208
make checks payable to St. Thomas Aquinas/Haiti Fund or Visitation Hospital (it's in Haiti)
He and a group totaling 10 are planning to go there in February. He has a relationship with a church there and also is on the board and involved with Visitation Hospital. I have been to his fundraisers. These people know Haiti well, and are sending aid to hospital in remote areas with thier trusted contacts.

If you want to donate online, I suggest
Partners in Health:

anyone who has read Paul Farmer's Mountains Beyond Mountains knows that this NGO (founded by him) has a long history in Haiti, is culturally sensitive, is into social justice etc.

Haiti has another 6.0 aftershock as of the morning of Jan. 20- the situation is probabaly a million times more dire than the news can possibly transmit.

I think we should critical reflect upon US's involvement in Haiti relief given its political history. I have mixed feelings about this obama-clinton-bush fund. First, the US controlling the airstrip and most of the aid as well as occupying the country I do not deem appropriate. Thus is NOT the job of the US, it is the job of the UN.

Should US troops get priority landing before food and water supplies? Doctors without Borders had thier plane turned away 5 times, forcing doctors undertake emergency amputations with saws. While true that the airport has no tower, is tiny, and Haiti is a chaotic mess, it does seem bizarre that US troops are making it in on time and French doctors are not. More investigation is required before serious accusations leveled, but I think this fact does invite questioning.

Is the US more efficient than the UN? Maybe. Does that mean the US should be controlling the relief effort? Maybe. Would the US have a lot to gain economically by direct all reconstruction efforts to American companies? Absolutely.

Its a recession. and there are serious economic reasons for the US to control Haitian relief. We must critical read news of the US's humanitarian effort with that rather large grain of salt in mind.

I received a donation of $700 from Xavier University (in Cincy) Coffee Emporium. A fellow Brebeuf alum and El Salvador lover, Emma Cordes, organized her coffee shop to donate 25% of its funds to Santiago Texcuangos. Right before the Haitian Earthquake. I know Haiti must be exponentially worse, especially since the disaster here still continues for so many families. Like the 43 families in Joya Grande, kicked out of the shelter and living under trees,
which we will continue to support even though their government will not.

Thanks to Joe Heithaus for organzing DePauw kids to collect shampoo and medicine. It will go directly to the shelter housing 43 families as soon as I can get my little pick-up to start again without shaking violently (crossing fingers that mechanic works magic today). Thats part of relief in a developing country. You can get supplies, but could lack transport. or the contacts to figure out who needs help. which again, is why preparation is so important. disaster risk plans could have saved hundreds or thousands of lives in Haiti. Then again, having the money to build building properly would avoid the problem altogether. Someday..... when we efficiently translate human knowledge to human needs....?

I hope that the news keeps its eye on Haiti. and we keep our hearts with Haiti. to those alive buried beneath the rubble, to the unecessary deaths in the hospital while their life saving medicine circles aimlessly above thier heads like the flies festering on the carcasses of human barricades that lines the streets of Port au Prince. to the children who will die of diarrhea while clean water sits in an airport run by someone who has never heard of thier community. to the aid workers who wont sleep for the next few months, and when they do, thier sleep will be interrupted by the faces of dying women and children who lips are stained with blood from unquenchable thirst. I have seen this slice of life. it is unbearable. and haiti got the worst poker hand imaginable, dealing from a deck of cards missing all the aces and half the jacks. please donate. and before you donate, please think. but before you do that, please pray.

1 comment:

  1. Beth, this is stunning. Thank you. Thanks for sharing with us your experiences to bring us a little closer to understanding this world that we will probably never have to face, due to the "luck" of our US birth.
    Our lives are all a little bigger for having you and your observations in them.