Monday, February 21, 2005

Some ways of helping…

There is still a lot to be done in Sri Lanka’s tsunami affected areas.
Any means and ways of helping are more than welcome to those in need.
Some people help through donations to ONG or others; some prefer to go directly to where the help is needed and this is what I decided to do:
I flew to Colombo with some school material (in case it wouldn’t be easy to buy it locally).
Two days in Colombo was sufficient for me to get a better idea of the situation, and concluded that it would be no problem to go down the coast on my own. So I rented a car with a driver (30 to 35 US$ per day) and drove along the coast.
I drove along the coast from Colombo through Galle until Hambantota and concentrated my little help at Galle area.
Galle has a fort (built by the Portuguese in the XVI century and completed by the Dutch) that didn’t suffer any damage and therefore the old town inside the fort was completely untouched.
I based myself in Galle, shopped for school material in a local market and went with the driver to some camps north and south of Galle.
In Galle I met 3 other individuals who were doing excellent jobs on their own:
- Kevin, an electrician from Ireland who was buying and giving boats directly to the families in need. He had a driver who would walk with him on the beaches, spoke with the people, accessed their real need and if judge that they were in need of a fishing boat he would then proceed and buy the boat from Colombo and get it shipped it to the fishermen’s beach. I will do a post on Kevin’s great help soon.
- Jo, a Hong Kong who was visiting the children and asked them to do drawings which she would take back to Hong Kong, organize an exhibition, sell the drawings and bring back the money to these children;
- Ineke, a dutch women who was collecting money from her country to look after the set up of a local orphanage.

The above 3 examples are anonymous individuals working on their own and helping directly those in need. Sometimes I think that they are far more efficient than big organizations but unfortunately they are not too many and therefore, just not enough.
As for the ONG’s although I support them and I sure think that they end up helping the masses, I am quite sure that a great amount of the money donated to them is absorbed in “administration” expenses.
In Sri Lanka, more specific in the Colombo’s 5 star hotels, I got the impression that the ONG’s could be more efficient with a simple change of their behaviour.
I sure didn’t like to see some of the ONG’s staff behaving as if they were in luxury extravaganza holidays, staying at 5 star hotels (in Colombo) and dining lavishly by the sea. After all its our money and we sure tdid not donate it to offer these people this free treatment.
Although, I’m sure that they have provided a great help, I failed to see these ONG’s staff down in the south in the destructed areas.
I will not develop on this sad issue here as I have not devoted my time investigating the actual situation but was certainly not happy to observe and been told by locals how some of these big organizations operate.
I just leave one question, is necessary to lodge volunteers in 5 star hotels?

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