Saturday, January 16, 2010


As I type this, millions of dollars in pledges are flooding the charities that are racing to help the people of Haiti. My dollars are among them. The great irony of this is that the operations underway are funded by people who donated in the weeks, months and years leading up to the earthquake. We have a tendency as a society - as human beings - to ignore charitable giving except in the wake of an incident that forces us to think about it, at which point we're scrambling to do what we really should be doing year round. It's the philosophical result of a society that lives on the credit system. Even our response to a humanitarian crisis of this magnitude happens on credit. Those we throw into the breach are followed (sometimes too late) by the monies and materiel they need to help. And there's a solution: Year-round charity. There will never be a time when we don't see an upswell in donations after a catastrophe and I don't want to belittle or discourage that kind of giving. As I said, if you donated in the wake of this catastrophe, my money is mingled with yours. But the people who are helping, really helping in the immediate responses by Doctors Without Borders, The Red Cross, Oxfam, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, and Water Missions International are the people who gave them the money that they had in the bank on the day the earthquake struck. The donations we're making now are to pay for ongoing operations and replenish the "war chest" of supplies expended as they ran into the breech, trusting that we'd catch up with them eventually. The bulk of charitable giving is coming in via Text Donation. The American Red Cross reports that they've raised over $4 million via this avenue alone in the wake of the Haitian earthquake. Charitable giving has never been easier - just text a specific message to a provided number and you've pledged the set amount (usually $5-10) to be paid with your bill. What isn't discussed very often is that text donations are pledges of money that don't get disbursed until after those donating pay their cell phone bills. Until that time, a charity has to work with the donations in-hand or acquire bridge financing using the pledged donations as collateral. This underlines the need to not only support your charities year-round, but also the need to make your donations to active and long-established charities such as those listed. Charities with the money on-hand to hit the ground running and allow the donations to catch up. The blog has provided this list of three reputable organizations who are active in Haiti and have both the clout and resources to get the ball rolling before your dollars get to them.
In the wake of this onslaught of giving, it's difficult to look beyond the immediate need of the moment. But we have to remember that our immediate response is not as immediate as we would like to believe. We cannot lose sight of this lesson. When this falls out of the headlines - and it will, long before the work in Haiti is done, I assure you - remember not to dust off your hands and getting back to your workaday life. Because truly, when we forget our history, we have to repeat the class until it sinks in...

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Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).