Catastrophes like the earthquake in Haiti naturally prompt an urgent desire to do something.
Many people have opted for the relative ease of texting their assistance. According to the Mobile Giving Foundation, based in Bellevue, more than $20 million has already been donated via text to such groups as Oxfam and the International Rescue Committee.
But some people just have to do more. And to them, World Vision, the global disaster-relief giant based in Federal Way, has put out a message today: Please don't.
In a release entitled Myths of Disaster Relief, the Christian humanitarian group tries to discourage some well-meaning but misguided attitudes that we might summarize as follows:
1. Let's start a drive to collect blankets, shoes, and clothing for the victims! Grandma's old cozy comforter is not a particularly useful or cost-effective relief item to ship down to Haiti, as compared to a compact, state-of-the-art disaster blanket that World Vision already has stored in warehouses near the scene of the catastrophe.
2. I'm not going to just sit here and text Wyclef Jean. I'm going to fly down there and volunteer myself!"Hands-on service may feel like a better way to help in a crisis," says World Vision, but "disaster response is a highly technical and sensitive effort" and you should leave it to the professionals. "Volunteers without those skills can do more harm than good, and siphon off critical logistics and translations services."
3. Let's adopt some Haitian children! "Early in a crisis," World Vision advises, children "should remain in their home countries until authorities can confirm the locations of their family members and explore adoption possibilities within their own communities and cultures."
World Vision says there's one form of help you can never go wrong with: cash.