Haiti: How to be a Good Samaritan
BY MONTE C. SAHLIN, research and special projects director, Ohio Conference
In the next several months, Adventists are going to be bombarded with requests for money for Haiti. Unfortunately, not all of the charities use their money very well. Monte Sahlin shares his thoughts about helping Haiti. [Reprinted with permission from the Best Practices for Adventist Ministry newletter.]
aiti is the poorest nation in the American hemisphere. This is the largest earthquake disaster in this hempishere in more than a century. The Catholic archbishop of Haiti was killed in the earthquake and the president of Haiti is sleeping in his limousine because the Haitian White House was destroyed. If you ever felt like doing something for "the least of these," now is the time!
But, how can you get money there most effectively and quickly? I had many, many emails, phone calls and text messages yesterday and overnight asking me about this. The answer is simple, but you may not like it.
The large, established international relief agencies will do the best job both in terms of speed, low-overhead and effective on-the-ground operations. I served for a number of years as the chairman of the inter-agency umbrella group VOAD [Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster] and for two years on the board of FEMA. I know the protocols and have personal friends among the key players.
You will hear lots of small organizations and individuals talking down the large organizations and urging you to give to hundreds of groups that all suddenly appear after a major disaster. Don't be fooled. They're playing to the prejudice that many Americans have against large bureaucracies. But (big but) in times like these the small groups will actually spend a much higher percentage of the funds on transportation to Haiti, shipping costs, etc., while they tell you they have "no overhead." They will be slower to get there because the jam-up at the airport is controlled by governments, the military and the UN. Governments and the UN know the big players and their capabilities, so first priority will be given to those.
Is ADRA one of the big players or a little fish? It is one of the 15 largest agencies on the globe. It has excellent credentials. It has a better rating from independent evaluators than does World Vision, for example. ADRA had an office and team in Haiti before the earthquake hit and they began to respond to the need within minutes. ADRA has backup supplies around the Caribbean and "back door" routes into Haiti. ADRA has a very large global network that is mobilizing supplies and money from throughout the developed nations.
There is no better place to give your money than ADRA. It will leverage your dollar with five to ten matching dollars. It will get supplies there as quickly as the fastest responders. Most important, not only will it play a key role in the immediate response, it will stay around for months and years after CNN has forgotten Haiti and continue with the rebuild effort.
Adventists, I believe, have a special duty to give to ADRA and not other organizations, because others will not support it as readily as we do. We are "it" for ADRA.
There are evaluation agencies out there with excellent information (such as Charity Navigator). Check those web sites before you give. Give intelligently. A lot of money is wasted in every disaster response, largely because of people making bad choices without adequate information.
If you have church members with a sudden urge to go to Haiti, calm them down. Unless they are part of one of the established response organizations and have been through the necessary training, they will simply get in the way and waste precious water, food, lodging and medical supplies. Encourage them to use their time and energy to raise money to support the guys on the front lines.