Food for thought...??

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Food for thought...??

Postby camionpilot » 10 Sep 2017, 15:41

A long read [ might be a struggle for some ..!!!!] and thought provoking .

A veteran reporter on why you shouldn’t give money to the Red Cross after a disaster.

The easiest thing to do after a disaster strikes is to make a quick donation to the Red Cross. Millions of us have done it: You send a text, contribute $10 or $20, and imagine you’ve done a good deed.

But in an article last week for Slate, journalist Jonathan Katz urged readers to stop doing that. Katz, who was the Associated Press’s bureau chief in Haiti during the 2010 earthquake (and later wrote a book about it), argued that the Red Cross “has proven itself unequal to the task of massive disaster relief.”

The problem, as Katz sees it, is that the Red Cross is a dysfunctional organization that excels at raising money but has shown little evidence of its ability to spend that money wisely or meaningfully. The Red Cross takes in close to 3 billion annually, refuses to open its books to the public, and, according to Katz, has consistently failed to produce a useful breakdown of its spending after major disaster efforts.

They’re also limited in terms of what they can do on the ground. The Red Cross isn’t a development organization — they don’t rebuild schools or hospitals or infrastructure. They provide short-term relief — cots for people to sleep on, blankets to keep them warm, hygiene kits, etc. This kind of work is important, Katz says, but it doesn’t justify the enormous sums of money the Red Cross solicits from the public.

I reached out to Katz and asked him why we should be more skeptical about the Red Cross, why the model of disaster relief they represent is broken, and what individual citizens can do if they really want to help.

He told me that Red Cross perpetuates a tendency we all have to see disasters as opportunities for charity. As a result, we spend far less time thinking about how to prevent disasters in the first place. “It’s always about relief, always about helping people after it’s too late,” Katz said.

“No one makes the world a worse place when they donate to the Red Cross,” Katz told me, “but if they do donate and assume that’s enough, we’ll keep repeating this cycle over and over again.”

Our conversation, lightly edited for clarity, follows.

[Author’s note: I contacted the Red Cross to ask for a comment. They’ve yet to respond. They did, however, provide a statement to Katz, which indicated that they were “providing food, cots, blankets, and other support to 6,000 people in various shelters” across Texas.]

Sean Illing

It’s not everyday someone makes the case against the Red Cross. Have you received a lot of blowback?

Jonathan Katz

Emotionally, this is powerful stuff. We're talking about life and death. Disasters present a unique opportunity for people to demonstrate virtue — it's an opportunity to be brave, to be charitable, to be compassionate. Giving money to disaster relief organization like the Red Cross is an emotional act, which is disproportionate to the amount of money you give. You send over your $10 and it feels like a significant act. And I can relate to that. I'm sure you can, too.

But that’s all the more reason to be thoughtful about what we do and why. We shouldn’t reflexively send $10 to the Red Cross and then walk away feeling as though we’ve made a difference. The truth is that we probably didn’t, and it helps no one to imagine otherwise.

Sean Illing

You used the phrase “make a difference,” and that’s exactly what the Red Cross website tells people who visit it: Click here to donate to Hurricane Harvey victims and you can “make a difference.” Is that true? Does donating to the Red Cross in moments like this make a difference?

Jonathan Katz

Not really. Their use of language like that is part of the problem. What other financial transactions promise you that you're "making a difference" or changing the world? But that's a big part of their sell. There are two problems here. One is that the Red Cross is a dysfunctional organization. The second problem is that disaster relief in general is a much bigger and a much different problem than the one people are solving when they send a single donation in the wake of a particular disaster.

Sean Illing

Can you expound a bit on that second problem?

Jonathan Katz

Sure. A question like “Does it make a difference?” is hard to answer. One of the things I've learned in covering disasters for more than a decade is that you have to take this conversation out of the realm of vaguely saving lives or vaguely making a difference. And we can't talk about good intentions either, because intentions don't amount to much. Instead, we have to be very practical about what is needed, what is being proposed, what is being done with the resources available, and who's being held accountable for all of it.

So a lot depends on what you’re trying to do. If the difference you’re trying to make is to pay for cots, then you need to break down what the most effective way to do that is. The same is true of short-term food relief. In some cases, the Red Cross is fairly good at these sorts of things. They’re very good at handing out blankets. They’re very good at getting their logo in the middle of every shot of a disaster scene.

But there are many, many other things that have to be done, both after a disaster strikes and before it strikes in terms of risk prevention, and the Red Cross doesn’t help with that.

Epic Flooding Inundates Houston After Hurricane Harvey© Provided by Epic Flooding Inundates Houston After Hurricane Harvey
Sean Illing

Well let’s get specific. What is that the Red Cross doesn’t do well? Why should people think twice before sending their money?

Jonathan Katz

What the Red Cross does well is position very short-term relief in certain kinds of situations. They're better at it in a very small-scale disaster, where basic logistical networks aren't being affected. So if there's a single house fire or something like that, they can be effective. But in terms of broader disaster relief, they really don’t do much apart from raising money.

So in Haiti, for example, where I worked, this was a big issue. The Red Cross raised tons of money but had no idea what to do with it, or how to make it work for the people who needed it. They raised something like half a billion dollars and they had no way to spend it. They did not have half a billion dollars’ worth of things to do. So in a situation like that, especially in an overseas disaster, all of that was a complete waste. Almost all of that money could have been better spent somewhere else.

Sean Illing

So what happened to all that money?

Jonathan Katz

It still hasn’t been spent. After all these years, they still don’t know what to do with it. They spent some of it on short-term relief, and they basically regifted it to other organizations — after taking their 9 percent cut, of course. The much bigger issue is that this is just a terrible way to do disaster relief in general. The entire system is broken, and the American Red Cross specifically just happens to be the biggest brand name in that mess.

But when you tell people not to send their money to the Red Cross, they get frustrated because there isn’t an obvious alternative. It’s not entirely clear what the best thing to do is.

Sean Illing

That’s definitely part of the problem here. You argue that we’re framing this issue in the wrong way, that we’ve got to think differently about disaster relief. Because the truth is that we should be thinking about how to prevent disasters or about how to mitigate their effects, as opposed to waiting for something terrible to happen and then throwing money at it.

Jonathan Katz

That’s right. The fact is, there’s very little that we can actually do from the sidelines. You can't make the rain go away, you can't make the water go away, you can't bring back the people who have died, you can't bring back the things that have been lost.

Part of the problem with the model that the Red Cross perpetuates is that it gets people in the habit of seeing disasters as opportunities for charity, and as unavoidable acts of God or something like that. So these awful things happen, no could have seen it coming, and now we all get to be good people by contributing a few bucks from afar.

This is a terrible way to think about disaster. It has resulted in untold tragedy all over the world, and we have to break that cycle. It's a very difficult thing to do because it requires that we think about something in an entirely different way.

New Orleans Struggles to Rebuild© Provided by New Orleans Struggles to Rebuild
Sean Illing

What does that mean? How should we think about this?

Jonathan Katz

We don’t spend nearly enough time worrying about disaster prevention. It’s always about relief, always about helping people after it’s too late.

All those millions of dollars given to the Red Cross after a disaster strikes could have been spent on the construction of better, safer buildings that are less likely to be destroyed in a storm or an earthquake. It could’ve been spent on better flood protection, on better levees. It could’ve been spent on creating better systems and infrastructure and training more first responders so that we’re more prepared. It could’ve been spent on building an environment less prone to disaster in the first place.

None of this is the Red Cross's fault. They raise money, and they’re very good at it. That’s what they do. As long as people give them money they will continue to be good at that. It's not like the American Red Cross is putting a gun to people's heads and saying, "Don't prepare for disasters so that you can keep giving us money whenever they strike."

But they happen to be the biggest brand name in this world, and people turn to them when there aren’t enough of these systems in place, so they give a little money and feel good about themselves and go back to not caring about their own communities or the community they’re helping. That has to stop. If we care about actually reducing suffering, this has to stop.

Sean Illing

I take all those points, but where does that leave us? What can or should the average person do if they want to help? Should they send material goods like food or clothes to local organizations instead? Should they volunteer or send cash?

Jonathan Katz

One of the worst things you can do is just send stuff into a disaster zone. This is another thing we see in disaster after disaster: people hurriedly send old clothes, canned food, and toys, and no one has any idea what happens to that stuff. If you’re compelled to give, always give cash.

Sean Illing

Give cash to who? Not the Red Cross, obviously.

Jonathan Katz

No, definitely not the Red Cross. Ultimately, you want this money to end up in the hands of the people who most need it. How to do that is going to vary from disaster to disaster, location to location. But generally speaking, working with people rooted in these communities is a much more effective way to go.

The Red Cross can do a lot of things, but they won’t help the people in Houston who are going to need money to restart their lives, their businesses, their incomes. That is not a situation that a cot or a hygiene kit or a nice volunteer with a warm cup of coffee can fix. Those people are going to need money. A lot of that is going to have to come through flood insurance, a lot of that is going to have to come from the federal government, or the state government. That is an opportunity for people to give.

What won’t do much good is having millions of individuals scattered across the country make individual contributions to the most visible organization they know: the Red Cross. Because in three months or six months or a year, we’ll start seeing all these stories asking where they money went? And no one will have any idea. I’ve been covering disasters for a long time, and it almost always plays out that way. And we’ll realize, yet again, that our good intentions and our money was largely squandered.

Sean Illing

Six months from now, when we’re writing and reading stories about Houston after Harvey, is this what you expect to see?

Jonathan Katz

I hope not, but yes. The conversation will be about how we got into this mess and what we can do next time to prevent it. And the answer will be what it always is: "Prepare well in advance. Think about these things well in advance, and when the disaster strikes, have a complete different way of doing it." Then we don't change, and then disaster strikes again and the whole cycle starts over again.

All you have to do is just look at the after-action stories from Hurricane Sandy, from Hurricane Katrina, from the floods in Louisiana last year and see. You can basically take those, change the particulars of the disaster zone that you're talking about, and use the same story to describe Houston.

Haitians Continue To Struggle One Month After Earthquake© Provided by Haitians Continue To Struggle One Month After Earthquake
Sean Illing

You suggested earlier that the Red Cross is not only limited in terms of what it can do on the ground but that it’s also a dysfunctional organization. How so?

Jonathan Katz

If you read the investigative work that Pro Publica has done about the Red Cross and their actions after the Haitian earthquake, after Hurricane Sandy, after the Louisiana floods last year, and many other disasters, you see the same pattern. The Red Cross leadership has misled Congress and resisted oversight at every step. They don’t open their books, they’re not transparent, and they only release details after they’ve been publicly shamed.

Sean Illing

The Red Cross generates more than $2.6 billion every year. Do we have any idea what they do with that money?

Jonathan Katz

No. And because their brand name is so strong, they get away with it.

Sean Illing

The recovery effort is just beginning in Texas. We’re facing potentially another catastrophic storm later this week. If people want to donate strategically, who should they listen to? How will they know where to turn if not the Red Cross?

Jonathan Katz

It’s an important question. The best thing to do is to listen to people who are actually living there. Especially the voices of people who we might not otherwise listen to. Not just what the mayor has to say, but what the people from the poorer part of towns who are getting pushed out of their homes, or who have been through repeated disasters now, and can't take one more. Pay attention to what they’re saying and think strategically about how best to help them.

Texting Red Cross is easy and quick but it won’t accomplish much. There are plenty of people who can’t help or who don’t want to help, but if you actually care about making a difference, realize first that there are limitations and then consider carefully your options. No one makes the world a worse place when they donate to the Red Cross, but if they do donate and assume that’s enough, we’ll keep repeating this cycle over and over again.

See you can do it ..!!
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Re: Food for thought...??

Postby freddo » 10 Sep 2017, 16:30

A statement is made on the conversation that the Red Cross refuse to show there accounts This is certainly not true see here ... ration.pdf
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