Left Justified: The tragedy in Haiti

January 20, 2010

By Stanley Campbell

Disaster relief is outside our scope of consciousness (except for you saints at the Red Cross), but I hope we come together to care for our fellow humans in Haiti. People need basic medical supplies, food and clean water, and it is being rushed there by the world. The best way to address these needs in the short term is to send funds to organizations that can deliver this kind of aid.

I have been receiving many calls about suggesting where to send help. My favorite is Church World Service (the CROP Hunger Walk people, online at www.churchworldservice.org). They have the best record and can squeeze every dollar twice. They work with local and indigenous people and groups in the country building long-term relationships, and can do both emergency and development work. In my humble opinion, they’re the best for the bucks.

Red Cross, UMCOR and Doctors Without Borders are great as well. By the way, they found the UMCOR relief workers and dug them out of the building they were in (yes, the head honcho was already in Haiti, checking on some development projects); they’re bruised, but OK.

David Stocker (local musician) plays music with some Haitians who will be in Rockford in April, and he wants to do a fund-raiser then.

If there is a place on earth that could have done without an earthquake right now, it’s Haiti. A 7.0-magnitude quake struck Haiti Tuesday, Jan. 12, shattering buildings and forever changing lives. While authorities still don’t know the extent of the damage, it is estimated that 3 million people may be affected by Haiti’s worst earthquake in 200 years. One survivor reports there are thousands of people roaming the streets, looking for shelter.

Haiti is already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with eight out of 10 people living in extreme poverty. It’s a place where many in the world have turned their backs. But not Church World Service (CWS).

CWS has an established presence in Haiti, with partners Service Chretien d’Haiti, SKDE and the Ecumenical Foundation for Peace and Justice. EFPJ’s House of Hope is a day school CWS supports in Port-au-Prince. Preliminary information indicates the school is damaged, and staff are trying to determine the well-being of their colleagues and the children.

And, join in praying for the people affected by this earthquake.

Amidst this natural disaster, there’s been media commentary about the long-standing, human-made troubles in Haiti. Some of this commentary is mean-spirited, like Pat Robertson’s claim that Haiti made “a deal with the devil” and deserves this act of God. That’s an old pro-slavery claim trying to explain how the slaves overthrew their masters.

Even well-intentioned commentary easily slips into blaming the people of Haiti for the oppressive systems under which they have suffered. As Randall Robinson, the founder of the TransAfrica Forum correctly says, “Haiti’s misery is largely not of its own making.” For every aid organization, there’s two businesses making money off Haiti’s cheap labor.

There are many excellent organizations doing humanitarian work. Ralph Nader suggests you might consider these three organizations:

Doctors Without Borders—www.doctorswithoutborders.org

Partners in Health—www.standwithhaiti.org/haiti

Fonkoze—www.fonkoze.org.

Also, the FBI warns Internet users who receive requests for charitable donations on behalf of earthquake victims to “apply a critical eye and do their due diligence” before responding. “Past tragedies and natural disasters have prompted individuals with criminal intent to solicit contributions purportedly for a charitable organization and/or a good cause.” Those are the people who “make a deal with the devil.”

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Jan. 20-26, 2010 issue

One Comment

  1. John

    January 20, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I am really surprised. I thought Stanley would somehow describe for us how the earthquake was really Representative Don Manzullo’s nefarious doings.

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