There’s a humanitarian disaster – What should we do?

A retired priest asked Twitter the question: “Which is more helpful, donating stuff, to be ferried to where it’s needed, or donating cash through charities working in the appropriate area? Which is more helpful, cost-efficient etc?”

The resounding response was cash every time.

There was a recognition that giving stuff makes people feel good about themselves. There are then good stories about the trip to the area, the people helped and met. Yet many reported that with appeals for stuff, even when closely targeted to what the recipients are asking for, people often donate inappropriate items. “The twice Christian Aid asked for ‘stuff’ (Angola & Hurricane Mitch) we got not only what we asked for, but shed loads of stuff people wanted to offload. We actually got a shower curtain from someone to send to a hurricane zone! And out of date tins from a rich woman’s pantry” was one response given.

The ‘shed loads of stuff’ has to be dealt with. It needs syphoning off so that it doesn’t just get transferred to another place for the recipient to deal with. Then the things, those actually wanted and useful, have to be transported. “Many physical donations are sitting in stores while they try to find a route That said, in times of huge influxes, there is a need for ‘stuff’ but the receiving countries will have ‘stuff’ & sorting through our ‘stuff’ may slow them down. We need to be asked for stuff. We also need people not to dump their crap & feel good about themselves for doing so.” Another commented “getting stuff from a non EU country across Europe is an admin nightmare and it’s entirely possible for stuff to arrive and not be needed.

The common thread seems to be “Money. It will get there faster, and at present there don’t seem to be serious shortages anywhere charities are working.” Another priest gave a heartfelt response “Cash every time! Stuff is more about us feeling good. I say this as a church that regularly gets bags of cast offs ‘donated’…

When a humanitarian response is needed, then the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) will often be at the forefront of an appeal. For the Ukraine war the British Government are matching donations received, doubling the value of them. The International Committee of the Red Cross are working with National Red Cross Societies to assist an initial two million people in need. A special focus will be on vulnerable people, including unaccompanied minors, single women with children, elderly, and people with disabilities.

Within Durham Diocese, through Rob and Margaret Bianchi, there is a link with the ARCA Project in Moldova, a country bordering Ukraine close to the major city of Odessa, which are receiving many refugees. Moldova is the second poorest country in Europe by GDP per capita and has the lowest Human Development Index of any European nation. Cheques can be sent to ODM Creative Communications, 8 Lindisfarne, Washington, Tyne and Wear NE38 7JR or by bank transfer to ODM Creative Communications, Sort Code:77-20-14, Account number 16275360 with reference: Holercani. If a bank transfer is used please send an email to indicating the amount so that there is clarity in where the donation is for.


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