Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

The devastation in Myanmar and China has been so overwhelming as to render me silent on it all. But this morning I caught a segment on the news, and later read in the paper, about all the Chinese parents who have lost their only child. And I lost it.

There's a Bloggers Unite for Human Rights challenge going on today and so here I am, still wordless, carrying unspeakable grief in my heart all the while knowing it's nothing compared to what the victims of the cyclone and the earthquake are feeling on the other side of the world.

Amnesty International has posted links to a number of their campaigns--ways to get involved in human rights and aid efforts around the globe. And here is a link to the Red Cross' donate page.

But here's my lingering question for this day, and I know I have much to learn from others on this front: When devastation is so emotionally overwhelming that your impulse is to turn away, what can you do in that moment, really do, to stay human and not just let yourself turn away?

15 comments:

Marjorie said...

Deborah,

That's a question most frequently raised (after "How can I help?") after mega-disasters such as this one. I've no real answer other than to say that it's a step in the right direction to at least acknowledge our connection to each other. I think that too many times we forget our membership in the greater community of humanity, that the petty issues that seemingly divide us obscure the fact that we all live on one teeny-tiny planet in a vast, infinite universe. We could conceivably solve all the problems that beset us, we just won't let our egos and self-interest step aside in order to accomplish that.

One thing that I urge people to consider is to take a deep breath, remember that common thread that binds us and not succumb to the understandable but misguided urge to just do something for its own sake. As someone who's worked in nonprofits for most of her professional career, I've seen so many, many otherwise goodhearted people thwart their own efforts by making donations that ultimately prove either useless or even detrimental to their intended recipients. Remember the tsunami and the subsequent flood (no pun intended) of bottled water donated by the ton from all corners of the world? The Red Cross and other aid groups had already restored sources of potable drinking water in the area within days after the tsunami hit. The nonbiodegradable plastic bottles that arrived from overseas in the aftermath ended up either cluttering up waterways and formerly pristine areas, or they were left languishing in aid warehouses because no one wanted them. A waste of millions of dollars that could have gone towards urgently needed medical care, housing and food.

I've also seen abandoned but otherwise gorgeous new schools erected by well-meaning foreign governments in rural areas in the Philippines where the number of children had dwindled to almost nothing. I've seen people donate microwave popcorn bags to church food drives for the homeless. I can think of many, many other examples of people who give without really considering whether their gift will make an impact, or if they're simply assuaging their guilt at their relative privilege.

This isn't to knock our philanthropic natures. America really is one of the most generous countries in the world. But I do hope that as we contemplate the horror and tragedy that have befallen Myanmar and China, we consider truly lasting ways to give that will do more than simply provide a moment's relief, if at all.

Note: If there's one thing that aid agencies need the most, it's money. Always, always money. Doctors Without Borders, the International Red Cross and various children's organizations are great places to consider a donation to.

By the way, love the idea for Bloggers United for Human Rights. Thanks for the link! I'll go check it out right now.

Cheers,
Marjorie

anniegirl1138 said...

How do you not turn away? By not turning away. Just squash the impluse. It's that simple and that difficult.

On the large scale as marjorie mentioned, money is always a very good thing to raise and donate.

candeebasford said...

Both Margaret Wheatley and Pema Chrodron write about this 'not turning away". Wheatley says to turn toward suffering with all of our attention. Pema suggest breathing in the pain and then breathing out compassion,comfort, love.

Deborah Siegel said...

Marjorie, Anniegirl, Candeebasford, thank you for wise words, all.

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