A Transformational response to tragedy and crisis, Part V: How I am giving and why

Since the earthquake in Haiti we’ve dedicated this space to voices dialoguing about two questions:

  • What do you believe is a transformational response to disaster?
  • Are there any unique dynamics that Transformational Giving brings to such a response?

As the voices have eloquently demonstrated, it’s anything but fiddling while Rome burns. The lead Haiti story for each of the last three days while I’ve been assembling these posts has been a variant on “Aid groups struggle to get food and water to Haitians”.

This in no way means that it’s not crucial for us to give. It is. It’s just that it’s crucial for us to give in ways that involve us doing more than hunting for the most reputable aid organization through which to give. As history and at least the last three global disasters have demonstrated:

  • An initial flow of money is rarely the impediment to disaster relief
  • That flow of money dries up astonishingly quickly, well before the need does, and typically well before we are changed by what we have learned (which tends to be a lot about disaster and comparatively little about the people who are experiencing it)
  • There is a great deal of giver’s remorse a few short months after the disaster, as, inevitably, news stories crop up that disclose that Major Disaster Relief Organization X still has designated money in the bank from the last disaster that it has yet to spend, or the projects that Major Relief Agency Y undertook aren’t really helping a lot.

None of this excuses us from responding, and none of this means that major disaster relief agencies don’t, on the whole, do a great job.

It just means that getting an online donation to a major disaster relief agency may not–ought not–to be the beginning or the end of the story.

I hope that, like me, you’ve benefited from the voices who have guest posted and commented on the site. I found the whole experience to be, well, transformational–and I don’t mean that in the sense of emotionally gratifying, personally sizzling, neat, cool, or even fun.

I mean that the discussion has transformed what I understand about Haiti, instilled in me the importance of suffering with in addition to giving to in disaster relief, and given me a lot to process as my wife and I have considered how to respond to this tragedy that is so much bigger than anything the small screen of TV and laptop can convey.

It seems appropriate  to me to conclude this series by letting you know briefly how we chose to give, and why. I will withhold the name of the specific entity through which we are choosing to give, as my point is not to drum up support for a worthy institution. There are certainly enough websites doing that.

I want to share with you where and how we chose to give mainly as a very personal window into how the Transformational Giving process and what the contributors to this blog over the past week have written has impacted us. Mutual accountability and all that.

In following Jon Hirst’s six-step process to thinking through how to respond transformationally,  we learned something fascinating in our research on Haiti:

The World Bank reports that of the $1.2 billion sent from the US to Haiti in 2009, a surprisingly large share came from the 300,000 Haitians who live in the United States.

That reminded us of another people who certainly run the risk of potentially being named among the globe’s most tragic:

North Koreans.

Especially North Korean defectors, 300,000 of whom live illegally in hiding in China and 15,000 of whom live in challenging cultural and economic conditions in South Korea.

Going on a decade ago, my wife and I noticed that when it came to helping North Korea, most people opted for giving through reputable major aid agencies.

Very few people attempted to reach North Korea through North Korean defectors.

And yet when we talked to the aid agencies and the North Koreans, we consistently found that the North Korean defectors had strikingly better insights into how to help and who to help–and how not to help–than the aid agencies did.

After all, North Korean defectors weren’t simply motivated by humanitarian concerns. They were motivated by trying to help family members not die.

That will definitely motivate a person to stretch every aid dollar and press it into practice as quickly as possible.

So as we read about and prayed about and studied about Haiti, we couldn’t help but be drawn to the news stories (like this one) that shared how Haitians in America were reacting to the crisis.

The news stories would drop clues about how many of these Haitian Americans had been helping Haiti consistently, powerfully, and effectively long before this latest disaster. After all, if we’ve learned anything in the last few weeks, it’s that Haitians are fairly well used to a life of disasters.

We read the stories and looked at Haitian American Protestant churches and found ones for whom crisis response in Haiti was not only nothing new but was for them a way of life, in an effort to change the way of life that involves all too much crisis in Haiti.

And that’s how we are giving.

We wanted to show our faith in this group, to listen to them, to let them–rather than a major aid agency–take the lead in guiding the way we think about Haiti, and how to show the love of God to that country and its people, not just in this disaster, but in what may come.

May God bless you in your own journey of discerning where to give in response to this tragedy. May you be transformed as you give so that you not only give but suffer with, learn, and last with your Haitian brothers and sisters, long after the Internet and this blog have moved on to other things.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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3 Responses to A Transformational response to tragedy and crisis, Part V: How I am giving and why

  1. Pingback: When donors want to get personally involved in challenging causes, don’t rebuke or patronize them. Train them! « Transformational Giving

  2. Pingback: Haiti update: $627 million of donations spent, $1 billion of “urgently needed” donations remain in NGO bank accounts « Transformational Giving

  3. Pingback: What’s The Best Donation You Ever Made Through a Nonprofit? | Transformational Giving

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