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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sri Lanka and Haiti: Never Underestimate the Local Solution

In 2005, when a considerable amount of aid flowed into Sri Lanka to assist survivors of the Asian Tsunami, there was a story of a 20-ft shipping container full of pepper that had been donated by some well-meaning but misguided donors. What was someone who had just lost their home to do with a sack of pepper? This is amusing, yes, but also a tragedy – such a waste of generosity at a time great suffering. This, unfortunately, was one of many such stories.

At the same time, however, there were tales of heroism and generosity among the people living in or nearby affected communities. Residents rallied to establish search parties for those still missing, or help build temporary shelter from debris, or to share meals with one another, to care for each other. Locally, so much was done to help.

During times of crisis, or simply within the context of poverty, the power and effectiveness of a local solution is proven over and again. Who better to make a difference for another person in need than someone who is there? Local understanding of the language, social and political context, geography, and people is critical to providing help that is both appropriate and cost-effective.

Being a steward of donated money HOPE International Development Agency strongly believes in enabling local solutions in times of disaster and in the context of poverty.

For instance, now during the crisis in Haiti, HOPE International Development Agency has been able to support established networks of medical professionals fully engaged in helping survivors from day one. It has been important to get some resources – supplies, medicines – to Haiti and this is proving extremely difficult in a poor country where the primary communications and transportation infrastructure was destroyed. However, by working with committed friends in the Dominican Public, HOPE International Development Agency has been able to get aid to people in Haiti who know how best to use it, and do so quickly.

To take this approach, HOPE International Development Agency must have relationships with people from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. These relationships existed before the earthquake, and will be strengthened because of the collaboration now taking place. It is a healthy relationship borne out familiarity, and anchored in trust.

But the role of the donor is essential. There is an extreme lack of resources in parts of our world. HOPE International Development Agency endeavors to exchange donations received into a tangible expression of compassion where it is needed. By working with our friends living in places facing crisis and hardship, HOPE International Development Agency maximizes the benefits of this exchange.

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