I had an e-mail exchange overnight with Karen Woods, program director for the National Recovery Initiative, who wrote a piece for us on giving to charity wisely a few years ago. We were, of course, discussing Haiti. She wrote, in part:
I think of this crisis as one analogous to Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta, i.e., a problem so huge, so overwhelming, sights filled with immeasurable grief, horror, and pain. And yet, ONE woman saw a need and moved in to fill it, caring, loving, doing for ONE needy person at a time.
The big stuff requires big answers, in fact, big equipment where possible. Such rescue work is analogous to 9/11 and the literal digging as a result of the collapse of the Twin Towers. International relief and faith agencies unfortunately have much experience in this venue; they will communicate clearly what they need, and those who are able will respond. Only provide what professional rescue teams state that they need.
She points to World Vision as one group you might want to take a look at, if you’re looking for places to contribute to. They ask for cash. But, she realizes, “in the wake of 9/11, problems with some charities collecting funds, and the general distrust and discouragement of the last year, people most desirous or truly helping are challenged: If I give to X, can I be sure that my donation will be used appropriately?”
Woods has confidence here though:
World Vision is ‘out front’ on this Haitian earthquake disaster. And given World Vision’s experience in Haiti, the size of their ‘men on the ground’ force, their long time trusted response to national and world need, World Vision is a safe ‘investment.’ I did note, though that the smallest online donation checkbox is $50. Many Americans still have $50. But many do not. They will do well to send $5. They should have that opportunity. Even small donations multiple exponentially.
Finally, she adds:
The unfortunate lessons that came with Katrina are that no response should be stupid: Investigate any donation source carefully. (Use the Internet, get references from your faith denomination, be smart about making only secure donations online.)
Inspiring stories of heroes and miraculous rescues assure us that meeting human need with true compassion is the core of a life of meaning and purpose.