Monday, April 14, 2008

Disaster Relief (3/06)

Unexpectedly, we had discovered our true path: post-disaster reconstruction. This is what we have done in Tsunami-ravaged Aceh in Indonesia and in flood-devastated Gonaives in Haiti. Matt Katz, a leader of the Roosevelt Island community, wrote at the time, “I don’t know of a single group other than Roosevelt Island’s own Orphans International that is asking the question, “When the children are fed and housed, then what?”

How can OI respond quickly to a global emergency when we have such a tiny budget and spend less than 3% of that on bureaucracy? When disaster struck in Haiti, we had already established a presence in Jacmel, and in Indonesia we were firmly established in Sulawesi.

Many global NGO’s – Doctors Without Borders, CARE, the Red Cross, Oxfam, and Save the Children are brilliant at emergency care in the event of catastrophe. Other organizations, such as UNICEF, are brilliant at project assistance. But only Orphans International Worldwide arrives at the scene of destruction and builds a child’s future, pledging to be involved until that child becomes established in adulthood. Many organizations raise millions of dollars for each of OI’s meager hundreds, but unlike many organizations, one year after a disaster OI remains on the spot, continuing to pick up the pieces.

Recent floods in Guatemala and an earthquake in Kashmir between Pakistan and India lead our generous contributors to ask, within hours, what we can do there. The answer is, sadly, simple: nothing. But when we have a presence in the country already, and can obtain additional emergency funding, OI can move quickly. God forbid tragedy strike Peru, Togo, the Philippines, Guyana, Ghana, or Romania, but as we develop a foothold in these nations, if calamity were to strike, we would be positioned to assist the children.

Children of “Amis de Orphans International”
with new educational toys in our play tent.

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