14 months ago Haiti was devastated by a major earthquake. Emergency rescue crews, medical teams and desperately needed supplies began to pour in from all over the world. There seemed to be a universal desire in the hearts of people everywhere to save the hapless victims of this disaster.
But as you may recall, there were major obstacles to getting aid to those who needed it. The Haitian government was barely functioning and the infrastructure had been severely damaged. The off-loading of vital supplies from ships and planes was delayed. Even after supplies were on the ground, distribution was hampered not only by problems associated with earthquake damage, but by red tape. The Haitian government was ill-prepared to coordinate all that international aid. No one was effectively in charge.
Still, the outpouring of compassion continued. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush used their clout to set up yet another fund to give aid to the victims in Haiti. It seemed like everyone was trying to help, and we felt good about it.
Yesterday, a news report cited mistrust of relief agencies as the leading reason some Americans are reluctant to send aid to Japan. It pointed out that to date, the Clinton Bush Haiti fund has made no accounting of what they have done with the money they collected. The impact of their lack of accountability is amplified by our present economic circumstances. People want to feel their contributions are helping those in need, not creating a slush fund for self-serving politicians.
It’s hard for me to feel good about the money we sent to Haiti when I think of Danny Pye’s story. Danny Pye, an American missionary, was just released from a prison in Haiti, where he had suffered in filth for almost six months. He never was charged or tried — just imprisoned. An informative article tells the story at http://www.theawl.com/2011/02/christian-aid-worker-danny-pye-has-been-held-in-a-haitian-prison-since-october .
Did the State Department act? Did our Embassy? Did former Presidents Clinton or Bush use their influence? Any senator? Amnesty International? No, no, no, no, no. It was the Christian, arch nemesis of the ACLU who rescued Danny Pye. One week after Danny Pye’s wife contacted the ACLJ (American Center for Law & Justice) the authorities released Danny — without comment. You can read about that at http://aclj.org/TrialNotebook/Read.aspx?ID=1081 .
Danny Pye says he’ll go back to Haiti. After his wife has their baby and he gets some much needed rest and recuperation, he wants to resume his work with Haitian orphans. This is the mark of a true missionary, worthy of all the support he can garner. As long as there are aid workers of his caliber, supporting charities is a meaningful and worthwhile thing to do, whether they are in countries like Haiti or countries like Japan.
“Who bestows himself with his alms feeds three,–
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me.”
(The Vision of Sir Launfal, by James Russell Lowell)