Monday, May 12, 2008

Thinking About Disaster Relief

No doubt, a lot of us have been monitoring the Myanmar situation. In general, I've got mixed feelings about disaster relief. Within my circles, I know lots of people that would drop everything to be part of the rescue. That's really admirable, passion like that is contagious and we are called to be a part of rescuing humanity. On the flip side, disaster relief is so complex, I have to think that unless you have some really specific training and expertise, you are just going to be in the way. Passion is great, but it doesn't replace understanding what needs to happen in a situation like Myanmar or Katrina or the tsunami - safe disposal of the bodies, water treatment, reconstruction, distribution of food and water, grief and stress counseling. This also requires understanding the macro picture of this situation - resource poor localities, a very different form of government, the context of people related to the ladder of economic development. Of course, these lists can go on and on.

In other words, I would probably advocate only the well trained go into a situation like that, while the rest of us who are passionate about mankind continue to pray, watch and send - specifically sending the right people. But what I'm also saying is that if you feel yourself drawn towards situations like this, go get some experience. Buy a water filter and figure out how to use it. Take a class in post traumatic stress. Invent large scale logistical problems with your friends for fun and profit. Get a degree in international development or medicine. Then the next time, and there certainly will be a next time, go with the confidence that you've got something that will really help.

Some current resources with regard to Myanmar:
Comments on where to give at TallSkinnyKiwi
Rudy on WorldVision, where he serves as a board member. [Rudy also hosted our SPACE 2006 LA team.]
Joel Vestal from ServLife

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