Monday, July 19, 2010

dead aid

i just finished reading dead aid, by dambisa moyo, an economist from zambia. dead aid makes a startling and surprising fact: aid does not and has not helped african countries. quite on the contrary, it has pushed dozens of african countries deeper into poverty.

aid hurts. it breeds dependency. this is because, unlike the marshall plan, which is hailed as greatly helping to reconstruct war-torn europe after wwii, aid to africa is pervasive. there is no timeline cut off. there is very little oversight. unlike the marshall plan, it comprises a much more significant portion of gdp and encompasses not just infrastructure, but includes agriculture, the civil service, healthcare, education, etc.

aid entrenches corrupt dictatorships, impedes the development of a middle class (tax base), and removes the incentives for countries to seek development alternatives. as aid is given from western governments to african countries directly and is seen as a permanent, dependable revenue fix, it is seen as a guarantee, a safety net by some--not all--of africa's rulers. and when it comes down to it, most of government-to-government aid doesn't even reach the people it's meant to help--something like 15% does.

moyo stresses that to achieve economic growth like south africa and botswana, and to mean themselves off aid, african countries need to begin funding themselves, mainly through: 1.) foreign direct investment, 2.) trade, 3.) capital bond markets, 4.) savings, 5,) microfinance, and 6.) remittances. moreover, the discourse on african development should refocus to include the perspectives of africans, and not primarily on western donor interests.

most importantly, this must be done, as donor fatique and uncertainty of future aid commitments further imperils africa's development. while i see the merit in donating to transparent private aid organizations, and will continue to do so, there is much insight to be gleaned from reading dead aid. i'm no economist, but a must read for all those involved in aid work.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

the life you can save

there are few books i've read that have truly left a deep and profound impression on me. one such book is the life you can save by peter singer.

on the way to work, if you saw a child drowning in a pond, would you jump in to save him or her--even at the risk of ruining your new shoes and being late to work? if you knew that a child's life was in danger, would you do what you could to save her or him, even if it meant sacrificing personal time, money, or resources? i think it's safe to say that most people would say "yes" without hesitation.

then why do most people do nothing knowing full well that children in extreme poverty at home or abroad are at potential risk from dying of malaria, malnutrition, drinking contaminated water, and a plethora of easily preventable diseases?

what if the child was drowning in a pond in africa?

peter singer makes the convincing case that we all have a moral obligation to help people out of poverty and that if we have the money to buy things that we don't really need (i.e. that bottle of water, that cup of coffee, or my personal favorite--that extra skateboard), then we have disposable income that can be used to effective safe lives and drastically improve the quality of life for poor people in the developing world.

he rightfully criticizes official aid as woefully inadequate and targeted often times due to political concerns rather than actual need (only a small fraction of foreign aid actually makes it to poor countries).

singer advocates that as a baseline, we should each set aside 5% of our income for aid agencies to alleviate poverty and save lives. he writes of people who have dedicated their lives to others and some philanthropists who have given 50% or more of their income to help the poor. he points to give well as a source for finding particularly effective organizations to which you can donate, among them partners in health and population services international.

for those interested in aid, development, and making this world a better place, i highly recommend the book. you can take the pledge to give at

singer questions how we spend money in general--a huge waste of resources is spent needless on trivial, ultimately pointless expenses while people are literally dying every day.
almost 10 million children die a year from easily preventable deaths. that's 27,000 deaths a day.
this happens while money is wasted on vacation homes, expensive cars, etc. he argues that using money to help others less fortunate is a much more urgent categorical imperative than to frivolously spend it on ourselves.

He writes:

...philanthropy fro the arts or for cultural activities is, in a wolrd like this one, morally dubious. in 2004 new york's metropolitan museum of art paid a sum said to be in excess of $45 million for a small madonna and child painted by the medieval italian master duccio. in buying this painting, the museum has added to the abundance of masterpieces that those fortunate enough to be able to visit it can see. but if it only costs $50 to perform a cataract operation in a developing country, that means there are 900,000 people who can't see anything at all, let alone a painting, whose sight could have been restored by the amount of money that painting cost. at $450 to repair a fistula, $45 million could have given $100,000 women another chance at a decent life. at $1,000 a life, it could have saved 45,000 lives--a football stadium of people. how can a painting, no matter how beautiful and historically significant, compare with that? if the museum were on fire, would anyone think it right to save a duccio from the flames, rather than a child? and that's just one child. i a world in which more-pressing needs had already been met, philanthropy for the arts would be a noble act. sadly, we don't live in such a world.

singer's seven point plan to eliminate world poverty includes the following steps:

1. visit and pledge to meet the giving standard based on your income.

2. check out some of the links on the website, or do your own research, and decide to which organization or organizations you can give.

3. take your income from your last tax return, and work out how much the standard requires you to give. decide how you want to give it--in regularly monthly installments, quarterly, or just once a year, whatever suits you best. then do it!

4. tell others what you have done. spread the word in any way you can: talk, text, e-mail, blog, use whatever online connections you have. try to avoid being self-righteous or preachy, because you're probably no saint, either, but let people know that they, too, can be part of the solution.

5. if you are employed by a corporation or institution, ask it to consider giving its employees a nudge in the right direction by setting up a scheme that will, unless they choose to opt out, donate 1 percent of their pretax earnings to a charity helping the world's poorest people.

6. contact your national political representatives and tell them you want your country's foreign aid to be directed only to the world's poorest people.

7. now you've made a difference to some people living in extreme poverty. (even if you can't see them or know whom you have helped.) plus, you've demonstrated that human beings can be moved by moral argument. feel good about being part of the solution.

singer asked one of his friends what had driven him to spend his life working for others. he replied.
i guess basically one wants to feel that one's life has amounted to more than just consuming products and generating garbage. i think that one likes to look back and say that one's done the best one can to make this a better place for others. you can look at it from this point of view: what greater motivation can there be than doing whatever one possibly can to reduce pain and suffering?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In Haiti, Typhoid Outbreaks Reported, Diarrhea Threat Looms

Full online version with photos and captions HERE.
In Haiti, Typhoid Outbreaks Reported, Diarrhea Threat Looms
International Action E-Newsletter
July 13, 2010

Last week, I returned from conducting a 6-month post-quake assessment of our clean water program in Haiti. What I saw was truly heart-wrenching. Vast stretches of displaced persons camps and countless makeshift shelters on the street. People collecting filthy grey-water from trash-strewn drainage ditches. Open sewers.

Typhoid has recently broken out in many areas of Port-au-Prince, and the UN Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Cluster Coordinator has warned of the likelihood of the biggest diarrhea outbreak the world has seen in the past 20 years.

This will not happen on our watch. In the past 2 weeks, we have installed 2 chlorinators in Thiotte, Sudest Department, providing clean water for 20 public water stations serving up to 19,000 people. We also put in 2 more chlorinators for LOCC Mission, an orphanage in the Croix des Bouquets area of Port-au-Prince.

At the last UN "Beyond Water Trucking" meeting, our Haiti Director Dalebrun Esther spoke, and consensus passed that for long-term sustainability, clean water provision must shift from focusing on camps to a neighborhood strategy and that the public water system must be rebuilt.

With your support, we have been the only group focused on disinfecting water at public water stations and providing clean water to neighborhoods from the very beginning, both before and after the quake.

Furthermore, French NGO GRET and the Haitian water agency DINEPA have recommended International Action's chlorinators as the model technology for providing clean water to all of Haiti. We are pursuing partnerships with UNICEF, UNDP, and DINEPA and continue to offer chlorinators and chlorine tablets free of charge to the UN WASH and UN Education Cluster groups, Clinton Global Initiative partners, and any organization in need of them.

Moreover, we've been conducting household chlorine residual testing to ensure that water retrieved from our chlorinators is not contaminated between the points of distribution and consumption. All drinking water containers tested so far have registered with ample levels of chlorine residual. Also, with the help of Water Missions International, we have begun comprehensive microbial testing of treated water from surviving water tanks.

International Action staff distributing deworming pills to children
Our deworming pill distributions, like this one in Tom Gato, Léogâne, focus on children.

What we're doing works—All samples submitted so far for microbial testing (our Duvivier and Mont Jolly #1 and #2 sites) have tested free of bacteria, confirming that our water is high-quality and safe for drinking.

In addition to installing new chlorinators, we're continuing to distribute albendazole tablets and relief supplies. We will distribute another 25,000 deworming pills through Project Concern International's four clinics in Croix Deprez, Nazon, Fort National, and Asile Comunnale beginning this week. We've also passed out deworming tablets, UNICEF hygiene kits and water containers, and mosquito nets to communities in the Léogâne area.

For locations without a water source or where we cannot immediately install a chlorinator, we've distributed PuR water purification satchets kindly donated by P&G's Children's Safe Drinking Water Initiative. Each satchet can clean up to 10 liters of water. We distributed these to orphanages, clinics, schools, and churches in Léogâne and the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince. An additional 75,000 satchets were given to Pure Water for the World for communities in locations where potable water trucking has stopped.

Dalebrun just met with leaders and teachers from 40 schools in Cité Soleil to assess where we can install more water tanks and chlorinators. We're continuing to look for new sites to install chlorinators. If you know of any neighborhood, school, orphanage, church, hospital, or organization in need of chlorinators, chlorine tablets, storage tanks, or deworming pills, please let us know. Help us spread the word.

The need is profound. The time to act is now. Join us in this campaign, and help us quench Haiti's thirst.

Many thanks,


Jeremy Mak
Program Coordinator, International Action
808 "L" St. SE
Washington, D.C. 20003
T: (202) 488-0735
F: (202) 488-0736

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mission to Haiti

Just wanted to update you guys on my Haiti trip so far. The situation here is pretty sobering...Lots of people living in ramshackle displaced persons camps in Port-au-Prince and Leogane. The sanitation and water provision sector is woefully weak, and almost every other house looks like it's been bombed.

I'm here with International Action ( to network with other groups in need of clean water and conduct a 6 month assessment of our work thus far. Before the earthquake, International Action provided clean water to over 400,000 Haitians previously exposed to deadly waterborne diseases like cholera, typhoid, and chronic diarrhea. We do this through the installation of simple, easy to maintain gravity fed chlorinators that do not require electricity or have any moving parts. These are attached to public water tanks and tanks in schools, orphanages, hospitals, and clinics. The earthquake destroyed 80 or so of our chlorinators on public water tanks in Port-au-Prince, so we are starting over with new installations and working to rebuild the public water infrastructure.

I've linked some photo galleries for you guys below. The Day 3 gallery is of us inspecting a surviving public water tank and doing household chlorine residual testing in Mont Jolly, Port-au-Prince. The Day 7 gallery is of us installing 2 chlorinators to provide clean water for 13,000 - 19,000 people in Thiotte, Sudest Department, rural Haiti.

Get in touch with me if you are interested in helping put a Haitian kid through a year of school.

Days 1 - 2

Day 3

Day 3 UNICEF Distribution in Delmas

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Preparing for Haiti

Going in a couple of weeks.

Latest e-newsletter that I wrote about our recent activities in Haiti HERE.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Organizations Supporting Women

From Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. This book is awesome, a must read that chronicles the cultural, social, and economic inequalities faced by women worldwide, and how women are transcending these challenges to persevere:

These are some of the groups that specialize in supporting women in developing countries. In addition, of course, there are many outstanding aid groups such as International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, and Mercy Corps, that are not listed because women are not their focus. This list is not exhaustive but a rather quirky compendium of groups we've seen in action. It's a starting point for further research. Two useful Web sites to consult for more information about aid groups are and

34 Million Friends of UNFPA,, supports the work of the UN Population Fund. It is similar to Americans for UNFPA,

Afghan Institute of Learning,, operates schools and other programs for women and girls in Afghanistan and in the border areas of Pakistan.

American Assistance for Cambodia,, has fought trafficking and now has a program to subsidize poor girls so that they remain in school.

Apne Aap,, battles sex slavery in India, including in remote areas in Bihar that get little attention. Apne Aap welcomes American volunteers.

Association for Women's Rights in Development,, is a global organization focused on women's rights.

Averting Maternal Death and Disability,, is a leading organization focused on maternal health.

BRAC,, is a terrific Bangladesh-based aid group that is now expanding in Africa and Asia. It has an office in New York City and accepts interns.

Campaign for Female Education,, supports schooling for girls in Africa.

CARE,, increasingly has focused on women and girls.

Center for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA),, works on issues related to women and development.

Center for Reproductive Rights,, based in New York, focuses on reproductive health worldwide.

Central Asia Institute,, run by Greg Mortenson (author of Three Cups of Tea), provides education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, for girls in particular.

ECPAT,, is a network of groups fighting child prostitution, particularly in Southeast Asia.

***Edna Adan Maternity Hospital,, provides maternity care in Somaliland. It welcomes volunteers.

Engender Health,, focuses on reproductive health issues in the developing world.

Equality Now,, lobbies against the sex trade and gender oppression around the world.

Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association,, mobilizes Ethiopian women to fight for equal rights.

Fistula Foundation,, supports the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia, established by Reg and Catherine Hamlin.

Girls Helping Girls,, was founded in 2007 by a fifteen-year-old California girl, Sejal Hathi. It builds relationships between girls across continents and supports education and health programs in fifteen countries.

Global Fund for Women,, operates like a venture capital fund for women's groups in poor countries.

Global Grassroots,, is a young organization focused on women in poor countries, particularly Sudan.

Grameen Bank,, pioneered microfinance in Bangladesh and has now branched into an array of development programs.

***Heal Africa,, runs a hospital in Goma, Congo, that repairs fistulas and tends to rape victims. It welcomes volunteers.

Hunger Project,, focuses on empowerment of women and girls to end hunger.

International Center for Research on Women,, emphasizes gender as the key to economic development.

International Justice Mission,, is a Christian-based organization that fights sex trafficking.

International Women's Health Coalition,, based in New York, has been a leader in the struggle for reproductive health rights around the globe.

***New Light,, is Urmi Basus' organization to help prostitutes and their children in Kolkata, India. It welcomes volunteers.

Population Services International,, is based in Washington, D.C., and makes fine use of the private sector in reproductive health.

Pro Mujer,, supports women in Latin America through microfinance and business training.

Safer Birth in Chad,, supports maternal health programs in Chad.

***Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA),, is a huge union for poor, self-employed women in India. It accepts volunteers.

Shared Hope International,, fights sex trafficking around the world.

Somaly Mam Foundation,, led by a woman who as a child was trafficked herself, fights sex slavery in Cambodia.

***Tostan,, is one of the most successful organizations in overcoming female genital cutting in Africa. It accepts interns.

Vital Voices,, supports women's rights in many countries and has been particularly active in fighting trafficking.

White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood,, campaigns against maternal mortality around the world.

Women for Women International,, connects women sponsors with needy women in conflict or postconflict countries.

Women's Dignity Project,, cofounded by an American woman, facilitates the repair of obstetric fistulas in Tanzania.

Women's Learning Partnership,, emphasizes women's leadership and empowerment in the development world.

Women's Refugee Commission,, is linked to the International Rescue Committee and focuses on refugee women and children.

Women's World Banking,, supports microfinance institutions around the world that assist women.

Women Thrive Worldwide,, is an international advocacy group focused on the needs of women in poor countries.

Worldwide Fistula Fund,, works to improve maternal health and is building a fistula hospital in Niger.

Worth,, runs literacy and microsavings programs in Nepal and Africa, with the aim of helping women earn their own incomes.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

success! biggest achievement of my life (for now)

so, i've somehow managed to have fallen into the role of procurement and logistics for my organization over the last couple of months. i guess i did it to myself. one big challenge and joy that i have is going after in-kind donations that we can use. so far, i've gotten items such as chlorine reagents (to test chlorine levels in water after we chlorinate it to make sure all bacteria have been eliminated), mosquito nets, and rain jackets (for our local staff--it's the rainy reason now) donated.

i also was able to obtain from the children's safe drinking water initiative 1 pallet (113,625 satchets) of PuR calcium hypochlorite. each satchet is like a mini water treatment plant. i flocculates (settles) sediments out of dirty water and kills all the bacteria and cysts in it. each satchet can clean up to 10 liters of water. watch a video demonstration of their use here.

that pallet will be distributed by one of partners to areas where our chlorinators haven't been installed yet, most likely in the port-au-prince area.

however, the coolest thing i think i've done to date is help acquire supplies from unicef's wash cluster stock. unicef is in charge of coordinating the water, sanitation, and hygiene relief effort in port-au-prince. they have supplies for which partner and nonpartner wash groups can apply.

i was skeptical if we'd get anything, but we got most of what we requested. besides obtaining safety equipment, work clothes, and tools for the staff (boots, face masks, overalls, hammers, 1 generator, a pump, wheelbarrows, chlorine test kits), i helped get supplies that we will distribute to needy areas in the city. the following is a list of items and locations where our haiti director plans to distribute them.

280 hygiene kits for adults for the elderly and adults in bois neuf and drouillard
960 bars of soap for adults and children in bois neuf
9 rolls of tarp for churches/adult community center in casale and trou-sable
8 5,000 liter collapsible water tanks w/ distribution kits for 4 schools in cite soleil and port-au-prince communes
500 10 liter collapsible water tanks to 500 women in bertin
1 300 gallon water tank for a school in archaiae

i understand that there's a big debate in groups receiving in-kind donations, as they clog ports, cost a lot to transport, and may not meet the needs of what intended beneficiaries need.

i don't want to make anything remotely resembling anything insensitive, and am definitely trying to only going after what local haitians can use after consulting our haiti director, a haitian himself. he was really happy with the rain jackets and the unicef pull. going to go for more.

on a different note, i was also interviewed for operation green leaves haiti's radio show. you can hear it here. on the left side. i'm the may 1st show, about 7 minutes in.

still learning a lot and working to keep my pride down

still moving

still lots of work to do

Monday, March 8, 2010

into the real world and off to haiti?

so looks like i got my first real stateside job in more than 3 years (the greenpeace stint doesn't really count). yeah! holler at your boy!

i'm the new coordinator for international action, an ngo that works on providing clean water to communities in haiti through disinfection vis-a-vis chlorination.

i returned from thailand shortly before the earthquake, and immediately knew that i wanted to help. i initially planned to volunteer for a couple of weeks at international action's office in dc before going to michigan to serve as an intern for tillers international.

when offered a staff position at ia, it was difficult choosing between the two. i'd been wanting to go to tillers to learn valuable trade skills such as draft plowing, blacksmithing, and woodworking for a few years now. tillers is an international rural development training center that stresses the importance of using low-technology and fossil fuel free methods of growing food and artisan building skills for self-sufficiency and a more sustainable way of living.

having these abilities would have given me greater self-reliance and independence, deeper empathy for farmers and artisans in lesser developed countries, and allowed me to put to the test a lot of development and agriculture/permaculture theory that i've learned over the years.

i truly looked forward to working with them, but ultimately decided that i was needed at ia. it's a small organization, and i believe i can help them grow. i couldn't conscientiously turn my back on the unbelievable post-earthquake suffering and destruction that i saw in many field photos.

as many of you know, haiti, a product of colonialism and rampant corruption, is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. infant mortality is high, and thousands fall ill and die because of preventable waterborne diseases like typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, and diarrhea.

we aim at providing clean water to neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, and orphanages through a simple chlorination system that provides clean water for $0.25 per person per year. this is a much more sustainable solution that alternative complex and expensive filtration systems that costs hundreds to thousands times more.

january's earthquake destroyed much of port-au-prince's water system, so our local staff are diligently working to provide water relief and starting to plan to rebuild and expand the whole water system.

i'll most likely be heading over myself in a couple of weeks to help cement partnerships and network with other ngos. apparently, after the earthquake, a slew of humanitarian groups jumped right in, but unfortunately with racist undertones. my impression is that there's very little engagement with local haitian groups working on the ground, and that they are mostly written off as incompetent and ineffective. this is hardly the case.

case in point, our haiti director, a haitian himself, had taken gps readings of all the water tank/chlorination systems in the city before the earthquake. these coordinates were given to usaid and the us military to make the first and only reliable and thorough map showing the condition of port-au-prince's water system after the earthquake. *just as a small disclaimer, nothing that i write here reflects the views and opinions of international action.*

i'm excited but also hesitant to go, for i want to help out, but don't want to be automatically cataloged as a "disaster tourist." you won't belief how many inquiries we've gotten from people who are seeking opportunities to volunteer on the ground. although they mean well, many are unskilled and would more likely get in the way of relief and reconstruction efforts. after i tell them that we need help in our office and that our local staff are working hard on the ground, very few reply back.

i understand that witnessing destruction and despair is "sexy" and speaks volumes on resumes, but i just question how much good that will do (unless said person is a superstar photo/video journalist, reporter, or philanthropist).

although i don't speak creole or french--again, reinforcing the idea of unsuitable foreigners coming into help the helpless idea i abhor and don't want to play into--i want to do what i can and help. let's hope this works out.

time to crack open the creole language software program...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

your title has a nice ring to it...

what sounds better? logistics and small projects coordinator or farm hand? i thought so.

big changes coming up real soon.

i'm constantly struggling to keep true to my values and goals. but a good friend recently told me that you can always keep your goals, but just go about a different way in realizing it.

i was originally planning on heading up to michigan to learn trade skills like--get this--draft plowing, blacksmithing, and woodworking.

will that actually happen? who knows? watch this space.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

write a letter, stop a genocide. save darfur and six strategies for change

Responding to a rebellion in 2003, the regime of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and its allied militia, known as the "Janjaweed," launched a campaign of destruction against civilians of similar ethnic background as the rebels. They wiped out entire villages; destroyed food and water supplies; stole livestock; and systematically murdered, tortured, and raped women and children. The Sudanese government's genocidal campaign has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives through direct violence, disease, and starvation; and continues to destabilize the region. As many as 2.5 million people have fled their homes and live in dangerous camps in Darfar, and hundreds of thousands are refugees in neighboring Chad. 400,000 innocent civilians have been murdered since Feb '03. More than 2.7 million are entirely dependent on humanitarian aid. The Sudanese government and allied militias continue their attacks into refugee camps. There are 4.9 million internally displaced people in Sudan, the highest number in the world.

i first starting getting interested in darfur when i attended a conference that brown students organized back in, i think, 2004 or 2005? i need to check. in september 2007, i attended the global day for darfur rally in central park in darfur, where tens of thousands students and concerned citizens voiced their support for an end to the genocide in darfur. since then, i've been out of the loop, working mostly on burma-related issues. back home in september 2009, i volunteered at a save darfur benefit concert, and have also signed numerous save darfur coalition petitions, as well as donated to the movement.

there was a save darfur rally at the west capitol building on wednesday, but i was swamped with work--i still feel guilty and i know i should've gone. it's all about numbers. today,i finally finished don cheadle and john predergast's not on our watch book, which describes ways that the average citizen can work to end genocide in darfur. it also explains the roots of the sudan and congo, uganda, and somalia conflicts, with ties to other tragedies across the world. the main causes are political exclusion from power, greed, and impunity (210-11).

the book was pretty insightful, and its strategies can be applied to all campaigns seeking to end crimes against humanity and genocide. the authors' point is that the public cannot be complacent. we need to pressure our leaders to act, and to let them know that there will be a political cost for inaction. the book also shows many examples of how average citizens, even children, can effect change and build the movement to save darfur. i'll share what i learned below. memorable sections of the book are quoted.

often times, it's "frustrating to us how sparse and sporadic the news coverage is of africa, which only makes headlines when another crisis erupts. This has led to a "conflict fatigue" associated with the continent as a whole. the truth is, however, that much of africa is a good news story. there are positive stories that deserve air time, such as:

"- the move away from dictatorships to democracy throughout africa
- a proliferation of nongovernmental organizations contributing to the development of
most african countries
- effective roles in the war on terrorism by many african governments
- peace agreements forged in countries which only a few years earlier had been ripped
apart by war and crimes against humanity, such as sierra leone, liberia, southern
sudan, and burundi
- serious methods by african institutions to combat transnational threats of diseases
and ecological destruction
- commitment on the part of many african governments to fiscally responsible economic
policies focused on alleviating poverty" (87).

more needs to be done. "during genocides and mass atrocities, outside governments apply humanitarian band-aids over gaping human rights wounds, citing the millions of dollars) sometimes billions0 they provide in food aid to exonerate themselves from the responsibility to protect civilian life. sadly, this is also the case with and medicine today are helpful, but are insufficient if a person's life is still in jeopardy due to violence" (91-92). gerald martone, director of humanitarian affairs for the international rescue committee wrote the following analysis of the relief approach to massive human rights abuse-induced suffering:

In the public portrayal of humanitarian situations our profession has often reduced massive suffering to a charitable appeal. the depiction of reprehensible brutality is simplified to merely needing benevolent relief. humanitarian emergencies are not merely health crises, they are epidemics of human rights abuses. we must communicate complex situations as moments for international action not merely remedied by western do-gooders and the provision of supplies. our communication should invite action, outcry, and engagement.
top ten us excuses for inaction include, "we're doing all we can, more action can worsen the situation, peace in the south will solve darfur, we don't support the icc, the rebels are also to blame, the african union is taking care of the problem, we're giving lots of food aid, china and russia will prevent real action, incentives are better than pressures, and the situation will get better-trust us" (97).

the priorities are to protect civilians, make peace, and punish the perpetrators.
"In punishing the perpetrators, we could provide information to and cooperation with the ICC and move their indictments forward dramatically. in promoting the peace we could name special envoys to help resolve the conflicts in congo, northern uganda, and somalia in a much more focused way than current efforts allow. and in protecting the people, we could ensure that peacekeeping missions have at their centerpiece civilian protection in word and deed" (232). however, the obstacles to these are apathy, indifference, ignorance, and political inertia. the slogan "never again" is empty, unless we do something to truly show our convictions for ending genocide.

the authors offer the following strategies for effective change:
"1. raise awareness
2. raise funds
3. write a letter
4. call for divestment
5. join an organization
6. lobby the government"

I. "Raise Awareness: Actions You Can Take

1. educate yourself about darfur and the world's other most urgent crises at

2. talk to your family, friends, and colleagues about these crises and what we can do to help end them.

3. host a screening of a documentary about darfur such as paul freedman's sand and sorrow (, darfur diaries by aisha bian, jen marlow, and adam shapiro (, or brian steidle's story captured in annie sundberg's film the devil came on horseback (

4. write a letter to your newspaper or local tv news asking for more coverage of darfur and other areas that need our help.

5. if you are a blogger, blog to end genocide on leading blog sites!

6. invite a speaker to your house of worship to talk about darfur and what must be done to end genocide and mass atrocities worldwide.

7. join/start prayer groups or promote interfaith events.

8. organize a vigil, fast, or protest to support stronger action to stop crimes against humanity.

9. wear the cause: purchase t-shirts or green wristbands and give them as gifts" (171).

II. "Raising Funds: Actions You Can Take

1. make an individual or family donation to humanitarian, human rights, or advocacy organizations. (you can find a list of these organizations on the ENOUGH

2. urge your employer to make a contribution to one or more of these organizations, or place one of these organizations on its united way designated charities.

3. organize a fundraiser in your community by hosting a dinner, a concert, an auction, a fun run, or a fast.

4. link to the organizations your support from you personal home page or your blog" (176).

III. "Write a Letter: Actions You Can Take

1. write letters to urge your representatives to take specific actions for darfur and other crises [a personalized letter is much more powerful than a form or online letter].

2. ask your family, friends, and colleagues to write letter to their elected officials. and hound them until they do so.

3. sign or start a petition calling for greater accountability for those responsible for genocide and other crimes against humanity. and present it to your local congressperson.

4. think big! start a letter-writing campaign at your high school, university, house of worship, or office.

5. write a letter to the editor of your local paper and support specific policies while targeting specific elected officials" (179).

IV. "Call for Divestment: Actions You Can Take

1. educate yourself about divestment and the targeted companies at the sudan divestment task force website at and the ENOUGH website at

2. research your investment portfolio to see if you have investments in companies that are targeted for divestment, and then pull your assets out of any fund that does and tell them you did.

3. join a group that is pushing for divestment at your university (or alma mater), your municipality, and your state.

4. write to your pension fund manager and demand that your pension fund be free of the targeted companies.

5. encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to make sure that their investment portfolios are free of those companies" (190).

V. "Join an Organization: Actions You Can Take

1. learn about ENOUGH ( and the other organizations working for change.

2. volunteer and attend meetings of organizations that have chapters in your area.

3. encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to make the same commitment.

4. start your own organization.

5. coordinate with other groups to amplify your efforts" (196).

VI. "Lobby the Government: Actions You Can Take

1. find out your representative's record on darfur. visit to learn about each member of congress's individual voting record.

2. make an appointment to see your national representatives when they are in your area, or get a group together and travel to washington, d.c., for a lobby day. making an appointment to meet with congress isn't as tough as it sounds. you voted for them and you have a right tot ell them exactly how you feel about the issues that matter to you.

3. visit city council members and state representatives and encourae them to divest and pass a resolution urging stronger action to end genocide in darfur and atrocities wherever they occur.

4. urge your elected officials to speak publicly about darfur.

5. keep sending those personal letters to congress, the president, and key officials like the secretary of state, secretary of defense, and national security advisor.



A. stay informed, and inform others, about what's going on in darfur

the ENOUGH campaign seeks to united and strengthen the efforts of grassroots activists, policy makers, advocates, concerned journalists, and others by giving them up-to-date information form on the ground in countries of concern and offering practical pressure points to end the violence. if you are concerned about these issues and want to know what you can to do push for change, is the place to find answers.

the international crisis group has field analysis and up-to-date policy recommendations for how to resolve conflicts all over the world, including darfur.

eric reeve
's website ( is a great one-stop shop for news, analysis and advocacy about the conflict.

download the voices on genocide prevention podcast from the united states holocaust memorial museum at

encourage friends to go to and play mtvU's darfur video game.

B. subscribe for the latest news from organizations working to stop the atrocities.

genocide intervention (gi-net) sends out regular "action alerts" with specific darfur activism opportunities.

to subscribe to STAND's national newsletter, sign up here:

save darfur has a weekly action network with specific actions you can take each week to help make a difference.

africa action also features innocative action alerts, at

write an op-ed or letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

save darfur has a great feature that allows you to write letters to the editor of local and national newspapers. here are some of their tips to help get your letter published:
- most newspapers will only print original letters. use talking points and sample letters as a starting point for your own message
- letters with a personal angle are always compelling. ask yourself how this issue affects you and your family.
- keep it brief and to the point. letters under two hundred words are much more likely to be published.

D. write to the tv networks and encourage them to cover darfur.

push the television networks to devote more time to the crisis in darfur. here's a sample letter.

Dear Sir/Madam:

I am writing to urge your network to devote more airtime to covering the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, where as many as 400,000 people have died, thousands of women have been raped, and more than two million people have been forced to flee from their burned and bombed villages to live in squalid refugee camps.

Television has the unique ability to put a human face on statistics. A good news story can bring Darfur, one o the most remote places on earth, directly into America's living rooms. Sadly, television news coverage of Darfur has been woefully deficient. Only one in every 950 minutes of news coverage during 2004 covered Darfur. During June 2005, major news media aired 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur.

Genocide is newsworthy. By increasing your coverage of events in Darfur, you can help to generate the public attention needed to pressure our government to bring the atrocities to a halt. I urge you to give this crisis the attention it deserves.



here are tips for a successful fund-raising event (courtesy of genocide intervention network):

general tips for holding events:

- decide what type of event will be most effective for the goals you are aiming to accomplish. for example, would a film screening or speaker better suit your purpose for holding the event?
- test your idea out-ask a few friends what they think. consider what kind of resources you will need to make it a success.
- get a team together, rather than working on your own. make a list of tasks; find out what skills people have, and try to give them tasks they'll enjoy. make sure everyone knows what his or her responsibilities are.
- come up with a backup plan. for example, what will you do if it rains?
- do research and estimate how many people might turn up. what is the minimum number of people you'll need to make money? what's the maximum number of people you can accommodate?
- think about the best date. avoid competing with another local function or a major tv event, for example. agree on a realistic timetable and give each task a deadline.
- think of ways to keep costs down and your proceeds up. try to get as much as you can for free-whether it's people's time, a venue, food, publicity, printing, commercial sponsorship, or prizes.
- bring materials about the current situation in darfur and the genocide intervention network (gi-net). you can request flyers, brochures, or other materials by e-mailing
- remember to thank everyone involved and let them all know how much they've raised.
- above all, have fun!

quick event ideas

- host a dinner for darfur. these dinner parties are meant to act as fundraisers, and area way to educate your community and give them the tools for action. for an easy guide to hosting an educational fundraising dinner, go to
- virtual house parties will get your friends and family involved in the cause with minimal effort.
- screen hotel rwanda[, the killing fields, schindler's list] or a similar film demonstrating the need to stop genocide.
- selling stylish gi-net t-shirts is an ideal way to spread the anti-genocide message. if you are willin gto commit to selling at least thirty shirts, gi-net can give them to you for just $7 a shirt. gi-net recommends that you sell them for $12 a shirt, but you can set whatever price above $7 you think makes sense for your event. then you can make a donation with the money you raise.
- the save darfur coalition also has green wristbands that have become one of the emblems of the darfur movement. purchase a few, then ask for a donation of $2 or $3 for each one and help make darfur activists more visible!
- set up a donation bo around your school, workplace, dining hall, or place of worship. distribute information about mass atrocities.
- ask local musical groups to perform at a "battle of the bands." charge admission or set up a donation box at the event.
- have a bake sale or car wash. explain prominently that the event is to help protect victims of genocide in darfur.
- organize a tournament involving poker, video games, a dance marathon, etc. charge admission from the participants of the event. you can either give a small portion of the proceeds to the winner or have it be a "benefit tournament" with all winnings sent to the anti-genocide cause.
- local businesses often look to promote philanthropic causes. educate them and see if they would be willing to make a donation.
- if there is a darfur-related event outside your area, encourage your religious organization or other group to sponsor your travel expenses.


there are many different way to write to elected officials and urge them to take action to stop atrocities in darfur. personal letters stan the best chance of being noticed, and we gave you an example of what a letter could look like in chapter 8 [look at page 177].

the gi-net website alo has a great tool for quickly generating effective letters.


the website of the sudan divestment task force ( has a wealth of information about the status of ongoing divestment campaigns, and everything you need to know to start a new campaign if none exists where you live.

you can learn the basics of targeted divestment at

after you learn the basics, contact the task force at a task force/STAND (students taking action now: darfur) representative will work with you to create a customized plan of action for your institution. you will be able to:

- research your institution to find how it may be invested in sudan
- submit a target divestment proposal to your institutions investment manager (e.g., treasurer, board of trustees, controller/comptroller, president, state legislator)
- mobilize a grassroots coalition to support your proposal


joining an existing organization is the best way to stay up to speed on news, events, and opportunities to get involved in stopping genocide.


students should visit the STAND website to find out how they can get involved.

B. congregations

congregations can learn more by joining the save darfur congregational network and taking advantage of their faith action packs, with specific resources to help Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities mobilize to help the people of darfur.

for instance, here are samples of scripture, texts, and traditions that they suggest:

PROVERBS 3:27 - Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.

ADAPTED FROM AL-QUR'AN, SURAH 5:32 - He who has killed an innocent soul, it is as if he had killed all humanity. And he who has saved an innocent soul, it is as if he has saved all humanity.

JAMES 3:17-18 - Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

C. communities

community organizations have played a critical role in pushing for action on darfur. at the save darfur website, you can search for groups in your area, or learn how to organize your own group. http//


A. find out your representative's record on darfur.

the first step to lobbying congressional officials is to find out what they have or haven't done to make a difference on darfur. visit and look at your representative's record on darfur.

B. ask focused questions

attend public events featuring members of congress and ask them about their position on darfur. here are some tips from gi-net:

- investigate local media, blogs and word of mouth to find out when a political event involved members of congress or challengers will be held. if it is an invitation-only function, inquire about how to get invited. usually organizers will be happy to invite people who sound cooperative and reasonable.
- use the darfur scorecard ( to see where a member of congress stands on darfur-related activities. with this knowledge, you will ask a more pointed and effective question.
- your question should be short and pointed. if you think you might get flustered, write the question down on a note card ahead of time.
- look for other chances to get your point across if you can't ask a question directly. if you were not called on or there was no question-and-answer session, you still have options. if there is a handshake line, join it and ask an abbreviated question while getting your ten seconds with the candidate. try to approach campaign staff after the speech and ask if you could meet with them about their candidate's darfur agenda. ask local media representatives if they would be interested in writing a story mentioning the candidate's darfur policy.
- be sure to follow up with the campaign, either by e-mail or phone, after the event. this will remind the candidate that yours is an important issues on which he or she needs to take a position.

C. meet with elected officials

making an appointment to meet with a member of congress isn't as tough as it sounds. you voted for them, and you have a right tot tell them exactly how you feel about the issues that matter to you.



1. keep it simple
2. keep it short
3. keep it sound
4. keep it smart
5. keep it special: tell an amazing and/or personal short story that everyone will remember to illustrate your point

1. don't be too boring. tell a story, tell a joke, make what you have to say interesting. don't pain in black-and-white; paint in color!
2. don't be too long-winded
3. don't be too unilateral. engage people by asking questions. be interactive!
4. don't be too complex
5. don't be too unstructured
6. don't be too random. foucs your audience or interlocutor on the two or three most important things the us government can do, and how that person or group can help make it happen
7. don't be too touchy-feely. we can't just rely on the "because it's the right thing to do" argument, or simply hope that for humanitarian reasons people will respond. we also have to connect our issues to larger national interests and what politicians and americans care about, i.e., national security.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

so where is jeremy?

yeah, i know. it's been a long time since i wrote last. a quick hello, a flurry of posts related to the haiti earthquake. then nothing.

well, here's what's up. i was doing limited fundraising for haiti at an individual level with earlier appeals and my run for haiti oxfam page--which jointly raised over $700 for earthquake relief, with money going towards partners in health and oxfam. not bad, right?

however, i wanted to do more. the immediate reaction of well-intentioned people is to head to haiti to help out. but more often than not, these individuals are unskilled and can actually cause more harm than good.

so the next best thing was to see how i could plug in stateside. i applied to a couple of groups, ultimately landing a spot with international action. they've been working in port-au-prince and surrounding areas for close to 4 years. they have supplied clean water to over 400,000 haitians through village trainings and the installation of inexpensive chlorinator systems and water tanks in communities, orphanages, schools, and hospitals. their work has help save lives and prevent diseases for many previously exposed to typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, and chronic diarrhea.

the public water system in haiti suffered extensive damage, and tens of thousands of people in haiti are still a without clean, reliable water supply after the earthquake. i'm helping them out with administrative tasks, outreach, and communications in their dc office. i'm also assisting with blogging duties at international action's blog at the last couple of entries? yeah, that's me. more updates soon. watch this space.

Monday, January 25, 2010

the tippy tap, drops make ripples

many of the news articles i've read had said one of the immediate priorities for saving life in the aftermath of the haiti earthquake is the provision of clean water and sanitation. in crowded areas, without proper hygiene and sanitation, disease outbreaks can be fatal.

this brings us to the tippy tap, a simple device that enables handwashing in areas without piped water or plumbing infrastructure. many of the diseases--like diarrhea and respiratory infections--responsible for a significant portion of infant mortality in the developing world, can be largely prevented simply by washing hands. the rationale for handwashing is further explained at the global handwashing day website. handwashing is an irrefutable integral part of any water, sanitation, and hygiene project.

tippy taps allow people to wash their hands, often times with a foot-powered lever, make it extremely hygienic. in addition, tippy taps use much less water than faucet handwashing. i've heard estimates of up to 90% less. another bonus is that they are cheap to make and can be adapted to use locally available materials. you don't need much more than a water container with a handle, some rope, a machete, a nail, a hot fire, a container to hold liquid or hard soap, and sticks or bamboo.

i first heard about tippy taps at an international sustainable sanitation conference i was attending in inner mongolia in sept 2007. i made my first tippy tap in april 2008 before a training held along the thai-burma border. at the training, i set up 5 stations and gave a presentation to local karen on the importance of handwashing.

they are really quick and simple to make. i used the directions found here as a template. shortcomings of his design include a level that isn't firming fixed into the ground, but moves around; and the lever string that obstructs the act of handwashing. this design makes people wash their hands with the level string between their hands, which is inconvenient and leaves a potential for contamination through string-hand contact. i've improved upon this design by pegging in the foot lever on a track and putting it off to one side. i've also experimented with different types of sinks to catch and drain away dirty water. another thing i've been trying out is different ways to tie off the cap so that the lever string doesn't obstruct or come in contact with dirty hands. but i noticed that looping the string can damage the plastic water container. a better alternative for greater convenience and more hand clearance would be to drill the opening for water to come out close to the side of the container opposite to the side where the foot lever is pegged. i'll work on these next time i build tippy taps for a more functional 3.0 version.

we used locally available, free, and renewable bamboo. i've seen gourds used for containers to hold the handwashing water before as well. the container can last a while, as long as it's taken care of. a hose running from piped water can be used to refill the tippy taps, as lifting and unlifting a filled container can be too heavy a task for younger children.

i made 7 more foot-powered tippy-taps in november 2009, 6 of them at safe haven orphanage, mentioned in previous posts, and another at a displaced persons camp.

on positioning the outlet hole and foot lever

i used a small diameter nail to melt a hole about 2 cm down from the top lip. you can play around with this to a certain extent, balancing between the two competing priorities of water retention capacity and tilt ease. the higher up the hole is, the hard it will be to tilt the tap to dispense water. if the lever bottoms out, hits the ground, and water doesn't come out, it means that the level ran off the track or the rope loosened up. check the track pegs and then the rope. you might have to add tension by adjusting the rope knot.

advice on picking a container:

i've seen containers as small as 1.5 liter being used, but i've chosen to use 10 liter containers to accommodate greater flows of people. 20 liters is simply too big. it'd be difficult to find a stick cross bar that would hold up that weight.

i originally thought that clear translucent containers were the way to go, because you can visually check the water level. but at the orphange, only solid black ones were available. i used them reluctantly, but was surprised when the water heated up in the sun and provided a nice warm wash. the black color also blocks out light and helps curb algal growth inside the containers.

i've also seen and heard of hand-tipped designs, which can serve those with foot handicaps. i think these are more complicated, but may be appropriate, depending on what locals want or need. one of my friends works with these types of systems in india. his video on it can be seen below.

in addition to "hardware," which is the physical infrastructure, to wash hands, making sure that the "software," or knowledge, skills, and attitudes to foster regular handwashing practices are adopted needs to be stressed. it's pointless to construct handwashing facilities and provide soap unless the target community understands oral-fecal contamination routes and linkages between handwashing and good health. "software" training needs to happen early on and regularly so that communities buy into projects and are able to take ownership of them. this way, institutional sustainability is insured and community members can then spread knowledge to others.

on a side note, i recently heard some awesome news: it was one of my karen friends' b-day a few weeks ago, and i went over to his place to say hi and celebrate. one of his friends who also turns out to be a former co-worker was also there. i had taught him how to make tippy taps back in april 2008. (i was a bit defeated and considered those tippy taps a failure, as the place where we put up tippy taps was lost to pro-government troops and the people that i had built them for had to flee the fighting). but i was pleasantly surprised that the knowledge is slowly, but surely spreading. he told me that he had built 2 tippy taps in one of the refugee camps, copying the design that i had showed him months earlier.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

jeremy's run for haiti fund

three miles a day. every little bit helps.

i'm going to start running 3 miles everyday for the next month, starting on thursday, january 21, rain or shine, to help raise funds for oxfam america through its fundraising page option. this will help oxfam continue its operations to supply clean water and emergency supplies to earthquake survivors in haiti.

if you want to sponsor my runs, i'm asking for $5 per each day of running. i know a mile may not seem like a big deal, but if you know me, i wouldn't be caught anywhere without my skateboard. running isn't my thing. i'm dead after a mile. if you're interested, my oxfam donation page is here.

i've never done more than 1 mile at a time. i've had knee problems and got an mri recently. so this is a bit suicidal in my opinion, and will be pretty painful. but i want to give you your money's worth. i'm pretty tempted to convert this to miles skated, but that would be too easy.

if there are other more impressive feats within my ability to accomplish, give me your ideas. the primary goal of this fundraising page is to raise money to help those in haiti and not to entertain, but i also want to work for your donation. again, all monies donated will go directly to oxfam's earthquake relief efforts.

you can be rest assured that any donation going to oxfam will be used well in haiti. oxfam america was awarded four out of four stars by charity navigator. oxfam is a member of the better business bureau's wise give alliance and meets their high standards of operation, spending, truthfulness, and disclosure. in addition, oxfam is rated highly by leading charitable watchdog organizations, including the american institute of philanthropy. please donate here.

if there are other more impressive feats within my ability to accomplish, give me your ideas. the primary goal of this fundraising page is to raise money to help those in haiti and not to entertain, but i also want to work for your donation.
if you think of any other ways that i can fundraise, or what challenges you'd like to see me complete for you to donate, let me know. as long as i'm not jumping off buildings or into lions' dens, it's fair game.

i really don't mean to put pressure on you, and i know that there are a lot of other worthwhile charities that are working on other issues. so whatever you decide to do is fine by me. my heart just goes out to the people in haiti when i see the pictures of the destruction. i just don't know what else i as an individual can do at this point but spread the word. thought that you'd be someone interested in possibly helping, but don't mean to come across as pedantic about this, so please forgive me if that's how i come across. i don't make appeals to family and friends often or lightly. if you do find this blog post about the haiti earthquake helpful/insightful, please feel free to pass it along to anyone you think might want to read it. those interested in donating, can do so here. hope things are going well.

thanks for your consideration.

take care and be well,

haiti earthquake backgrounder and how you can help

i'm sure you've heard of the earthquake in haiti. for those who haven't heard yet, a massive earthquake registering 7.3 on the richter scale struck haiti on january 12th. much of the damage was felt in the port-au-prince, the nation's capital. depending on what news source you read, as of january 17th, up to 200,000 people are thought to have perished, with about 3 million people affected. it is thought that about 1.5 milion people were made homeless overnight. thousands are injured and without food and water, and many are still stuck in collapsed buildings.

although world leaders have pledged millions in aid and have already sent search and rescue teams, food and medical aid, and other forms of disaster response assistance to haiti, help that has actually reached the ground is marginal, partly due to the destruction of much of haiti's transportation infrastructure and a lack of logistical support. it's really awful. i know money is scarce in these times, but if you have a few bucks to spare, i was wondering if you'd consider donating to the humanitarian effort to bring relief to haiti. i've done some research and listed ways you can help at my blog here:

the blog lists many different reputable organizations working on the ground, and provides some more background information on the situation in haiti.

here is the latest update from oxfam, that i got yesterday, jan 16:

"First, they want you to know that aid is getting through. Oxfam teams have been distributing water canisters since Thursday morning as well as bladders for water stations.

More Oxfam staff are arriving constantly, and we also have search and rescue teams deployed to pull survivors from the rubble.

But their supplies won't last long. And with nearly all clean water systems knocked out by the earthquake Oxfam urgently needs your help to get more aid to survivors.

Please, donate as generously as you can to Oxfam's Haiti Earthquake Response Fund.

As the roads open up in and around Port-au-Prince, we are working to truck more water supplies into the city and set up urban latrines but we can only do so with your help.

The scope of this disaster and the amount of time and resources it will take for Haiti to recover are coming into focus. One Oxfam contact on the ground in Port-au-Prince described the situation as:

"very chaotic with houses in rubble everywhere. There is a blanket of dust rising from the valley south of the capital. We can hear people calling for help from every corner. The aftershocks are ongoing and making people very nervous."

John Ambler, Oxfam's senior vice president, put it this way:

"This is much worse than the tsunami. The infrastructure during the tsunami was not destroyed. People could help their neighbors. In Haiti, everything is gone."

my background

a couple of years ago, i did some volunteer work for victims of the 2004 indian ocean tsunami in phang-nga, southern thailand. seeing the destruction there, even a year after, was powerful. one can only imagine what it must be like in haiti. if i had any real search and rescue or medical skills, i'd be there right now. but i don't, unfortunately. so this is the best i can do for now.

forced to pay back millions instead of rebuilding? SIGN THE OXFAM PETITION TO CANCEL HAITI'S FOREIGN DEBT

from oxfam america, literally takes less than 15 seconds. please sign the petition linked below to urge the international monetary fund (imf) to cancel haiti's foreign debt. read on:

Dear Jeremy,

Sign the petition:
Cancel Haiti's debt NOW!Haiti could be forced to send millions to foreign lenders instead of using it to rebuild their country.Sign the petition to the IMF Board of Directors today!

As you read this, Oxfam's staff is rushing clean water and emergency supplies to earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince, who are now reeling from a 6.1-magnitude aftershock yesterday.

But while our immediate focus will remain emergency relief, one major threat could still hamper all efforts to rebuild this country: Haiti's crushing foreign debt.

Oxfam and other groups have helped extract a laudable commitment from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cancel Haiti's debt. But we need your voice to get them to actually follow through on their promise without delay.

Will you help?
Please, join us in urging the IMF to cancel Haiti's foreign debt now – before the world looks away!

I can't stress enough how significantly debt cancellation would help the people of Haiti.

Even before the earthquake, Haiti was weighed down by debt. They owed over $891 million to the IMF and other lenders.

The worst part: it wasn't the fault of the Haitian people.
Over and over again, Haiti's people have inherited a legacy of debt from loans taken out by dictators and un-elected governments.

If these debts aren't canceled, Haiti will be sending tens of millions to the United States, the IMF and other international bodies even as it struggles to rebuild.

Some countries' debts were canceled after the 2004 tsunami, so we have a chance to convince world leaders to do the same for Haiti. And time is of the essence – leaders are meeting on Monday to decide on the amount of aid they'll give Haiti, and though the IMF has said they will "work to cancel the debt," they haven't made any commitment about when this will happen. They have promised to convert a $100 million IMF loan to Haiti into a grant, but we must ensure they follow through on that as well.

You can make sure the IMF gets past the finish line and doesn't stop halfway.

Please sign our petition to the IMF right now! Urge them to cancel Haiti's debt – and make sure that earthquake relief doesn't create a new debt burden.

Here at Oxfam, we never tackle short-term problems without considering long-term solutions.

That's why – even as our relief teams on the ground are helping Haiti's people survive the short-term devastation – we are committed to addressing the debt that kept Haiti trapped in a cycle of deadly poverty even before the earthquake hit.

Please, add your name now!


Raymond Offenheiser
Oxfam America

P.S. After you take action, please forward this email to a friend or post a message to Facebook or Twitter – help us spread the word!

P.P.S. I also wanted to share a remarkable article with you from today's Washington Post about the extraordinary courage of Yolette Etienne, Oxfam's lead staffer in Haiti, and the human toll the earthquake has taken. Read it here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

day 6 update from partners in health

From Ted Constan, Partners In Health: "Crisis in Haiti" (this is from the PIH listserv, i just changed some formatting and put in links)

Watch a video of Katie Couric's interview with PIH Executive Director Ophelia Dahl on CBS here.

Donate now here.


Dear Jeremy,

Six days can seem like an eternity. It's hard to believe that so little time has passed since the earthquake shook Port-au-Prince. In the days since, we've worked around the clock to bring urgently needed surgical teams, medical supplies, water, and food into a devastated city.

Thanks to a true team effort, at the general hospital in Port-au-Prince alone, we helped get 7 operating rooms up and running, performing surgeries around the clock. By tomorrow night, we should have 10 or 12. At our sites in the Central Plateau and Artibonite regions, we have eight more functional operating rooms that are already supplying surgical and medical care to hundreds of earthquake victims fleeing the destruction of Port-au-Prince. And thanks to a partnership with many people and organizations here in the U.S., we've filled 10 planes with surgical teams and supplies, and have many more scheduled flights throughout this coming week.

However, the logistical challenges of our immediate response are only the beginning of our effort to bring relief to the people of Haiti. While our progress has been impressive and rapid, it is dwarfed by the immense need. At this stage, we are working on streamlining bulk deliveries of supplies, medicines, and human resources to help handle the thousands more patients that still await care. And we know that to truly help Haiti "build back better," as President Bill Clinton has said, we need to ensure that the aid doesn't stop when the final emergency surgical team returns home.

After having their lives saved, many of our patients' worlds are changed forever, many will require months or even years of physical and emotional therapy. Some are orphans. Many of them have lost their homes and jobs. On a larger scale, the earthquake will shake Haiti for generations--government buildings lie in shambles, as do schools, hospitals, and roads. Before the earthquake, Haiti was already the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Just getting the country back to square one requires more work than what can be delivered in a single news cycle. But with your support, we remain steadfast in our commitment to build back better. After all, we've been working in partnership with poor communities and the government in Haiti for 25 years, and we don't plan to leave any time soon.

Watch a PIH Executive Director Ophelia Dahl discuss the importance of long term rebuilding efforts with CBS's Katie Couric here.

Read an op-ed by PIH co-founder Paul Farmer focusing on the importance of building back better here.

In solidarity,

Ted Constan
Chief Program Officer

haiti update

although there's a backlog of other topics it'd like to hit upon that have been mulling in my head for some time, for the next couple of posts, i'm going to focus mostly on the haiti earthquake. having been traveling back to the states, it's been hard keeping up with the situation in haiti for the past couple of days...

when i got home last night, i read haiti articles from sunday's la times. this one stood out:
For the first time since a catastrophic earthquake shuddered across Haiti last week, there were real signs of relief Saturday, with U.S. helicopters ferrying emergency supplies from an aircraft carrier off the coast and bulldozers taking to the streets of Port-au-Prince to shove through mountains of debris.

But there also were signs of the immense problems ahead: the stench of decaying bodies rising from neighborhoods; the sprawling tent cities springing up across the capital; the challenge of getting help to the victims in the face of the breathtaking scale of destruction and need.

LOOTING: Looting continued in Haiti on the third day after the earthquake, although there were more police in downtown Port-au-Prince.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

TENT CITY: One of the many tent cities that have sprung up around Port-au-Prince catering to the thousands left homeless after a 7.0 earthquake.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

another article today said that preliminary figures from haitian officials estimate that up to 100,000 are presumed dead.

an audio slide show entitled, "so many people need help" can be seen here.

graphic photos can be seen here. some images may be disturbing.

president obama has asked his former predecessors w bush and clinton to help with private fundraising efforts, and the ex-presidents have jointly launched the clinton bush haiti fund to solicit donations from the us and abroad.

i just transferred the leftover $200 from the power of one fund and an additional contribution to partners in health's stand with haiti campaign to deliver life-saving medical supplies and health-care to injured haitians. if you'd like to help with donations or would like more information on how you can help, please visit this post here for more information. every little bit helps.

i'll try to put up an oxfam donation page in the next day or so to try to do more direct fundraising.

Friday, January 15, 2010

help haiti now! you can make a difference!

for those who haven't heard yet, a massive earthquake registering 7.3 on the richter scale struck haiti on january 12th. much of the damage was felt in the port-au-prince, the nation's capital. depending on what news source you read, up to 50,000 people are thought to have perished, with about 3 million people affected. thousands are injured and without food and water, and many are still stuck in collapsed buildings.

although world leaders have pledged millions in aid and have already sent search and rescue teams, food and medical aid, and other forms of disaster response assistance to haiti, help that has actually reached the ground is marginal, partly due to the destruction of much of haiti's transportation infrastructure and a lack of logistical support. read a general overview of the situation here.

close-up photos of the destruction can be seen here, here, and here.

if you can help, please do.

IMPACT YOUR WORLD BY CLICKING HERE! the link includes many of the most effective charities and relief organizations rated by, an independent, non-profit organization that ranks charities based on effectiveness in the field and financial stability.

haitians need immediate help with basic needs, shelter, medical aid, and food.

YOU can choose to which field you want to donate to HERE. but before you do, please read this article from about "what not to give in emergencies."

oxfam america's appeal for its haiti earthquake response fund can be viewed here. this is what al gore had to say about oxfam america's work in rebuilding haiti:
The earthquake in Haiti has been catastrophic. More than three million people have been affected, and estimates are that over 50,000 have died. The human suffering is unimaginable.

That's why I'd like to pause from our usual conversation and ask for your help.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 85% of Haitians already living in desperate poverty. Now, with hospitals in ruin, dire shortages of even basic necessities like fresh water, and no way to find out whether family members are alive, the Haitian people urgently need our help.

A number of organizations are already engaged in critical relief efforts, and I urge you to support as many of them as you can. One of them, Oxfam America, has an emergency response team of more than 200 people already on the ground. The need for clean water and critical public health services is massive and immediate -- and our donations can help save lives.
avaaz's appeal can be seen here.

you can also text on your cell to donate $10 to the american red cross, one of many groups working to address the crisis in haiti. more info on that here.

for his contribution to the power of one fund, one friend donated $100 to oxfam america for haiti relief. my sister will donate $20 to one of the orgs working there. another one of my friends made separate contributions to oxfam america, partners in health, and doctors without borders/medecins sans frontieres. the $200 that was donated by 2 of my family members to the power of one fund, but not yet assigned to a particular cause, will be put towards partners in health. when i get back to the states in 2 days, i will put another $100 toward partners in health's stand with haiti campaign.

i'm sure that there are many credible and effective organizations working on relief in haiti; but i chose to donate to partners in health [pih] based on my own independent research of them and the testimony of one of my good friends who so happened to use to work with pih. this is what she had to say of them:
[Partners in Health] They've been working in Haiti for two decades, and their facilities are outside of Port-au-Prince, so they're in a really good position to help with relief. Plus, very little of their money goes to admin/overhead costs, compared to other groups like the Red Cross. I've been encouraging people to donate to PIH. You should put their link in your blog
other factors pushing me towards pih are that 1.) many pre-existing hospitals and clinics have been destroyed in port-au-prince, 2.) reports that i've heard have specifically asked for more medical aid and supplies, and 3.) a functioning emergency health-care system will undoubtedly save thousands of lives. (as a side note, according to this article, partners in health most likely just became the largest health-care provider still functioning inside haiti).

please help if you can. the people of haiti need us!

the preceding were my very amateur reflections on aid. a much more detailed and expert analysis on relief aid for the haiti earthquake can be found at saundra schimmelpfennig's blog here. she's one of the co-founders of the disaster tracking recovery assistance center, an ngo that works on aid coordination and ensuring better aid distribution.


if you'd like to email your family and friends to help too, feel free to use this template:. you can also copy avaaz's template, which you can get from here.

hey x

how's it going? i'm x. anyways, i'm sure you've heard of the earthquake in haiti. it's really awful. i know money is scarce in these times, but if you have a few bucks to spare, i was wondering if you'd consider donating to the humanitarian effort to bring relief to haiti. if so, ways you can help out are listed on the blog of someone i know. it's linked below.

i really don't mean to put pressure on you, and i know that there are a lot of other worthwhile charities that are working on other issues. so whatever you decide to do is fine by me. my heart just goes out to the people in haiti when i see the pictures of the destruction. i just don't know what else i as an individual can do at this point but spread the word. thought that you'd be someone interested in possibly helping, but don't mean to come across as pedantic about this, so please forgive me if that's how i come across. i don't make appeals to family and friends often or lightly. if you do find this blog post about the haiti earthquake helpful/insightful, please feel free to pass it along to anyone you think might want to read it. hope things are going well in x.

thanks for your consideration.

take care and be well,


some new york times articles on the earthquake in haiti:

jan 13: haiti lies in ruins; grim search for untold dead
jan 13: in haiti, survivors search for the dead, and for solace
jan 14: tensions mount in devastated capital as nations step up aid pledges to haiti
jan 14: the missing in haiti
jan 15: rescuers race to find survivors in haiti as us troops work to speed aid flow
jan 15: relief groups seek alternative routes to get aid moving
jan 15: for those trapped, rescue is but the first hurdle