[Strawbale] Haiti relief work

Max Vittrup Jensen max at permalot...
Thu Feb 25 09:41:45 CET 2010

Dear all,
This just tickered in on the permaculture relief mailing list. I share it here as I find it's corresponding to the cautionary approach several of us advocates, however articulated by someone with much more experiences: 


Saundra Schimmelpfennig blogs on relief and aid delivery and was a leading expert in the post-2004 tsunami recovery efforts in Thailand. She began as a Crisis Corps Volunteer, a service of the Peace Corps where former volunteers are sent back to their country of service to help after a disaster. Stationed in a Thai government office to assist coordinating the aid flowing into the area, she later co-founded the Disaster Tracking Recovery Assistance Center (D-TRAC). D-TRAC to collect and distribute information on all aid projects in six provinces to increase coordination and effectiveness. She later joined the American Red Cross to coordinate their post-tsunami recovery projects in Thailand. 

Saundra just launched the Charity Rater http://thecharityrater.com/ last week to help donors evaluate their options to contribute to relief organizations, so she is pretty swamped right now. But, we'll be having an ongoing conversation here about the application of lessons learned from previous disasters and the coordination of volunteer and NGO assistance. Watch this space for more. 

What advantages do you see in including wider audiences in conversations about aid and relief?

It is important that people better understand the limitations and problems common after a disaster so that they can apply the right pressures to aid organizations. The average donor speaks very loudly with their donation decisions. The better informed they are the more they will have a positive impact on aid organizations. There are a lot of problems the aid world has not been able to adequately address. But increasing the number of players after a disaster are just going to compound the problems rather than solve them.

It's important for the average person to understand the scale of the problem. 300 - 600 aid organizations flooding into an area. All with different agendas, priorities, access to funding. It's chaotic at best, and impossible for the average aid recipient to have any ability to navigate.

In Thailand after the tsunami fully 1/3 of all organizations were started after the tsunami. Less than a handful are still in existence today. Many made numerous mistakes.

Whether what we do is wrong or right, we are doing to people that can least afford for us to fail.


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