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Saturday 8 January 2005

Are your tsunami donations in good hands?

Charities are just as anxious as big business to get a share of the action.No one doubts that the money is needed but what prevents the latest disaster from becoming a bandwagon for every passing NGO to jump on? Charity is no longer the preserve of old women in knitted hats shaking collecting tins – it is highly professional, and competition for money is cut-throat.

Once the agencies have got their tranche of the cash it is vital that they are seen to be spending it on the right things. Whatever the warm and fuzzy feelings you get from giving £100 or so to the tsunami appeal, you might find that the reality of the charity business is rather less cute and cuddly. How are we going to find out whether the money we send ever gets to the places it needs to and what happens when it gets there?

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Anonymous Anonymous said :

Are there any stores in Canada that would allow me to surrender my Christmas 'Gift Card' to donate the money to the Tsunami relief instead? I honestly don't need another sweater, or shoes... but would be willing to send the value of it to where it can be put to greater use. If the answer is no, then would they consider doing this and advertising it as the goood samaritan company??

Viewer from Toronto, Canada

Sat Jan 08, 08:29:00 AM IST  
Blogger Nilmini Klur said :

Aid is desperately needed but please realize that getting the help to those who need it is a serious issue on the ground. This problem probably exists in all the countries but I can only speak for Sri Lanka. I am a US national born in Sri Lanka. Because of administrative and political realities of the country at both a national AND LOCAL level, we are concerned that the a significant and sufficient portion of the aid will reach those in need. This difficulty is going to become more significant when efforts turn to rebuilding and the emergency relief groups no longer have a direct presence in Sri Lanka but instead use governmental and local groups to disburse funds. We are busily searching out aid organizations actually working in Sri Lanka that have an established history of actaully helping out the people with respect for their dignity and without regard for ethnicity, race, class, origin, occupation, location and religion and without nepotism, self-dealing, self-interest and simple lethargy (note that Sri Lanka's tsunami alert system gifted by Japan broke down in 2003 and has not been repaired since). We have some organizations in mind (e.g. the Dharmavijaya Foundation operating for over 20 years in Sri Lanka) and one in particular but are trying to find organizations in the United States to which people can make tax-exempt donations. For more information, please check back with our website (www.theklurs.org) in a couple of days or go there now and sign up for an e-mail notification when we have more information.

Remember that ratings of charities, low overhead and disclosures of % of funds disbursed are only measures of how much of the aid has been disbursed by the charity. They are NOT measures of how much of those funds will actually be used directly to assist those in need. Further, these funds are given to local groups operating in the target country. Even globally-recognized recipients may subsequently distribute such funds through local groups.

Also note that sometimes the distribution by the local and national government may look good on paper, but there are lots of ways that that money is skimmed off and used to fatten the coffers of unethical government officials (particularly at local levels) and their cronies. That is why it is very important to find groups themselves that have highly ethical standards and are motivated by respect and caring for all human beings. And it is important to fund these groups directly so that money is not channeled through official government channels.

Please sign up with our website so that we can provide you with information from Sri Lanka. You can use this information to make your own decisions. And if you find that our information is useful, particularly our recommendations for charities, you can also advocate with local, regional, national and international aid organizations to further support these grassroots efforts in Sri Lanka that will truly accomplish our shared global concern for those affected by this disaster.

- Nilmini Klur (www.theklurs.org, e-mail srilanka@theklurs.org)

Sat Jan 08, 08:52:00 PM IST