Net Roots Movement

Lets Make Change.

Tsunami Relief

In the past two weeks, I have been organizing a small effort to collect donations for tsunami victims. I have been doing so with conflicting sentiments of reservation and exuberance, glad to be part of making a difference but wondering if my priorities are in the proper place. I am aware that 135,000 people died and for many, their lives as they knew it are over. Most of them lost everything, for which money can never be an adequate replacement.

Yet I still have some reservations about isolating this cause. After 9/11, many charities suffered. My reservations about collecting stem from awareness that as tsunami relief grows, other causes will be shortchanged (so to speak). Funds for humanitarian causes in Africa, which barely assist its abyss of problems – including but certainly not limited to disease, civil war, extreme poverty, starvation, unavailability of drinking water and inadequate infrastructure – will struggle to meet expected funds because people do not give multiple times.

Hence my predicament: I want to encourage donations for other causes but I know that it is best to capitalize on what’s hot. People will give as long as they see the devestation and destruction on TV. As long as they see the faces of orphaned children staring sadly at them, they will reach into their wallets or pull out their checkbooks. People will give to what they feel guilty about – or they will not give at all. So God bless the American media, as President Bush would say, for ingraining these images in our collective mind because they have successfully encouraged Americans, as individuals, to give. The US government has donated $350 million and private corporations continue to provide money to help.

Yet the Red Cross has asked people to stop donating for the tsunami victims and begin looking elsewhere. They beseech people, with appreciation and the fullest respect, to give to other causes, like the strife in Darfur, because those causes will struggle to give when their constituents stop giving. I am not being cynical when I say that most people will only give once; it is the reality of our America. The best I can do is to encourage people to keep giving. In this country, where many of us return home to two (or maybe even three) car garages, we can afford to. And I will keep collection for the cause of the tsunami victims and perhaps, after the attention has cooled, I will begin to focus elsewhere.

January 17, 2005 - Posted by | The Progressive Movement


  1. I guess I agree with what you’re saying, but just because it’s easiest to collect money for something that’s popular doesn’t mean you should give up on other issues… I think that if you were to set up a table on a local mainstreet collecting money for any of the crises in Africa, you’d probably be fairly successful. Instead of using pictures of the tsunami devastation, use pictures of African devastation.

    I don’t think the problem is that people aren’t aware of the problems in Africa, I think it’s just not in the forefront of their minds. Like you said, the tsunami is what’s hot. But everyone, even if not recently, has heard about the strife in Africa; whether it’s civil war, AIDS, starvation, or any of the other problems occuring. I guess my thought is that if they walk past a booth collecting donations to go towards aiding Africa, they won’t be completely clueless as to what their money would be used for.

    I realize that the Red Cross would probably never name another fund, in fear of hurting other funds, but somehow they’ve got to draw attention away from themselves. And the media ought to quit telling us about the rising death toll in southeast Asia every five minutes.

    Comment by AVoiceofReason | January 18, 2005 | Reply

  2. “And the media ought to quit telling us about the rising death toll in southeast Asia every five minutes.”

    I surely hope they don’t. These images and reports have done more to bring awareness to the plight of all those in need around the world than anything in recent memory. Hopefully the attention created by the Tsunami crisis, will help renew the efforts to help with other crises around the world. After all, it has brought it to our attention. We are discussing it and thinking of actions. That alone is reason for the media to keep these images in our face everyday! Until the day there are no more images to display, or reports to give.

    Comment by ÐÇRøçk§ | January 18, 2005 | Reply

  3. “Hopefully the attention created by the Tsunami crisis will help renew the efforts to help with other crises around the world”

    I think that’s overly optomistic. Once the tsunami reporting is over, people will stop donating to the tsunami fund; only those who were already donating will continue to donate. Like i said before, almost everyone’s heard about the problems of Africa–so why would they start donating now? Major events tend to actually cause change; 9/11 is one example, this tsunami another. The problems of Africa have got to become a major issue in order to get a *real* amount of money flowing.

    But hey, imagine if the media hadn’t reported on any of this! Not only would we have a terrible news system, but the Red Cross wouldn’t have raised nearly as much money as they have. So in that sense, they did a good job.

    Comment by AVoiceofReason | January 18, 2005 | Reply

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