The tragic consequences of the tsunami have pulled the heartstrings of the world. Money has poured forth and aid organizations, religious groups, governments, and military units have swung into action.
But the world's attention span is short. Once the shocking images fade from the spotlight, aid drops off, while the consequences of the tragedy live on.
As you grapple with the question of what to do, let me say that contributions several months after a disaster, when others have turned elsewhere, can be as much help as the immediate response. And while groups specializing in disaster relief are often best at responding to immediate needs, groups grounded in the culture with a consistent track record of effective work on peace, justice, and sustainability are best suited for the long-term rebuilding process.Here's one such recommendation from a trusted friend. Sharif Abdullah, a former board member of the Positive Futures Network, has worked for many years for Sarvodaya, a large grassroots group in Sri Lanka that has years of experience working for peace and development in that war-torn country. We have carried stories in YES! on their remarkable work (see Joanna Macy's and A.T. Ariyaratne's articles in YES!, Summer 2002). You can give a tax deductible contribution at www.sarvodaya.org
or by sending a check to: Sarvodaya USA, 5716 Manchester Avenue #3, Los Angeles, California 90045.For a more general reference, I recommend the website of Grantmakers without Borders, www.gwob.net.
On that site you'll find listed 22 organizations with extensive experience in the field and a note on how each one is responding to this tragedy.
The suddenness and scale of the tsunami makes shockingly immediate our human vulnerabilities. But every day our world experiences other tsunamis of death and destruction, less visible, but no less real. As each of us struggles with how best to respond, I find it useful to remember that the test of a good society is the way it treats its most vulnerable members. To meet that test, our contributions, in all their forms, must not only alleviate the immediate suffering, but also build new institutions and transform our culture to manifest the values of justice, sustainability, and compassion.