From change.org’s War and Peace blog post (emphasis mine):
Too often the U.S. and other Western nations are so caught up with today’s violent troubles that they fail to act to prevent tomorrow’s violent troubles. For twenty years, Somalia has always been at the top of humanitarian aid agency agendas, but in the middle of humanitarian donor and political mediators’ agendas. Only when body counts rise from rocket attacks or famine do the donors and mediators really get involved.
In St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, he compared us to the different parts of the body — see this really good analysis of the passage on Magdalene’s Musings.
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body.
I Corinthians 12.12-31,
One Body with Many Members [oremus]
Indeed, our empathy extends further than our own local congregation, local community, or even the worldwide Church. We feel a connection with victims of natural disasters we see in vivid details on television, or read about in our newspapers; with victims of war and persecution. Yet this connection, unlike that talked about by St. Paul, often does not last. Out of sight, out of mind, as the old saying goes.
Philanthrocapitalism, in a wonderful blog post that managed to both correct certain misperceptions about Adam Smith as well as criticize how we donate, has this to say:
Effective giving needs the head and the heart. As all our hearts go out to the people of Haiti, we offer three thoughts about how to give. First, give money. This may sound obvious, but aid agencies are swamped at this time with offers of food, clothing and other goods. Even when these goods are needed, it is far more cost effective for charities to buy and ship exactly what they need than sorting out gifts in kind. Second, give it to an organisation with a track record of effective action. Thanks to the internet, it has never been easier to find out who those organisations are. Third, why not match fund what you have given to Haiti with a gift through kiva or globalgiving to someone suffering just as much, but less dramatically, elsewhere in the world?
To this Aid Watch’s Laura Freschi reminds us further:
- Don’t restrict (or earmark) your donations to be used only in Haiti, but rather allow your chosen NGO to spend the money you donate as they see fit. If you don’t trust them to allocate your funds effectively to where they are most needed, then why are you giving them money in the first place?
- Take up the Philanthrocapitalism blog’s advice to give an equal amount to “someone suffering just as much, but less dramatically, elsewhere in the world.”
- Space out your giving. Organizations with a history of working closely with Haitian communities will still be there in six months. They will probably be there in a year, and probably in five years too. They will need your money then as well, when the spotlight has shifted to the next disaster.
May we learn not only to give generously, but also effectively.