Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cyclonic Consternation

I'm not sure how I feel about giving to emergency relief funds after seeing - without even trying - examples of monumental idiocy in their use. First, there was the $1.7m payouts to the families of 9/11 victims, like a shared lottery win. Am I the only one who thought that was weird? And then in the fiasco that was the Katrina recovery, $2000 debit cards were briefly handed out to a lucky few before the powers that be realized what a dumbass idea that was (was that the American Red Cross? I don't quite remember that detail). It kept me from contributing to the donation drive in the wake of the tsunami in 2005, but I did later do some work-in-kind for a charity that was rebuilding a school in India that had been wiped out, along with 50 of its students.

So now there's this cyclone in a part of the world I nearly visited last summer as part of my training trip to Thailand. Curse curse CURSE that case of tropical pneumonia that felt like food poisoning and kept from doing a number of things I really wanted to, including a day trip border crossing to Burma. Anyway, there are a few dilemmas I have with the prospect of giving to the relief efforts:

1) I somehow doubt that their government will allow anywhere near as much aid into the country as will be offered.

2) It takes funds away from other very worthy causes that just don't have anything to do with this. Though biggies like International Medical Corps, Relief International, and Unicef do kind of push my buttons.

3) It feels pathetic to send $25 to help rebuild 25% of an entire nation.

4) I just plain old prefer to give to tiny charities with a singular focus. An odd approach to a problem makes it extra attractive.

So I think I'll just sit back and let the dust settle on the Burmese nightmare, and step up when others have moved on to the newest hot cause. In an ideal world, foreign aid organizations will be allowed to remain in larger numbers, and a few grassroots projects will blossom in the aftermath. Then maybe my $25 can replant a rice paddy or replace a tin roof.

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