A Forbidden Question about Haiti
Have you caught yourself having a ‘forbidden question’ about Haiti and its recent earthquake? I confess I have and this is how it goes: “I want to help, but I don’t want my help to be worthless. When the Indian Ocean Tsunami hit in 2004 I immediately – like millions of others – gave money to an appeal only to discover, months later, that so much money had flowed into Aid agencies that much of it wasn’t used on the disaster relief. For example: ‘the American Red Cross reported after two years that it had taken in $568 million from the American public and spent just $168 million (their own figures, honestly proffered to peer agencies)…Doctors Without Borders collected well over $125 million, worked for a few weeks on emergency medical aid and then announced it not only had enough money but that it would redirect a huge surplus to its own programs in Africa since it was not interested in staying to rebuild shattered communities.’ See article by Richard Walden on this here.
So when the Haiti disaster struck I wanted to help, but how could I be sure any cash given actually got through? In the 1970s, just after Baby Doc had inherited the presidency, I had lived in Haiti for a while and discovered a country ravaged by corruption and abuses of power but with a people filled with generosity and humour, despite their often tragic or difficult circumstances. During that time my first wife and I became friends with a photographer, Sean Finnigan, who ended up marrying a friend of Danielle’s called Mousson.
Over the years we lost contact with Sean and Mousson but I’ve tracked them down now. And my forbidden question has been answered. Since 1985 they have been running ORE – the Organization for the Rehabilitation of the Environment, with the aim of improving the environmental, agricultural and economic conditions in rural Haiti. They’ve been planting trees, training people in agriculture, helping in watershed management and so on. But were they still alive? What had happened to their project after the earthquake?
A look at their blog showed me that they were not only alive but that the ORE project was now in a position to help. They were in a part of the country unaffected and are now providing care for hundreds who are coming from Port-au-Prince. Read the blog here – it gives a first-hand account of what it was like for someone away from the city and of what they are doing to help.
I’ve found out who I can give my money to and I know it’s being used to offer immediate help. There’s a button on the blog to donate (paypal etc) and within a few hours of clicking it I got an email from Sean telling me “Mousson’s team are sending out trucks of food to 3 Port-au-Prince refugee camps. One is being loaded as we speak… Also she has evacuated some 700 people and got them out of the nightmare of Port-au-Prince to the healthy area of Camp Perrin… taking care of their needs there too.”
The blog URL is http://www.oreworld.info
I feel the same feelings when these huge crises happen. I also wonder why I don’t go out of my way for those afflicted and in-need people in my immediate area. I wonder if the TV news has something to do with my perceptions.