A sea change in global relief?
Last year the news was bleak. There were local and international stories that seemed to pile on top of each other, making me wonder if law and order, diplomacy, decency and good taste would ever again have their day. I longed more than usual for the Christmas holidays.
Early on December 26 came the news of an astoundingly large earthquake in Indonesia and its resultant deadly tidal wave that swept westward and washed up on some of the most beautiful and populous shores of the world. Twelve countries were affected, but the heaviest losses and damage were in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Amateur videoclips showed how completely unaware and unprepared were so many victims; there was no tsunami warning system in that part of the world.
Every newscast increased the number of people confirmed dead. The destruction was so complete in some places that either communications were cut off, or no one was left to send a message. There were miraculous tales of survival, but the toll of destruction was huge. Three weeks later, the number of confirmed dead is nearly 200,000 and still climbing.
Reporters were all over this story, as the other major news of the day–the second election in Ukraine, the stepped up civil war in Iraq–faded in significance. Instead of wanting to hide from the bad news, people from around the world wanted to help. Mining companies and equipment suppliers were among those who made public donations.
Before long, the Tsunami Relief became a story of its own, as unprecedented amounts of money were poured in. To date Canadians have given $160 million and the Canadian government has pledged another $425 million in aid over the next five years. That generosity has been repeated in many other countries. It appears that the monetary response has been sufficient, at least for the time being, so that aid agencies such as the International Red Cross and Mdecins sans Frontiers can deliver their help where it is needed.
The tsunami of Dec. 26 unleashed a global generosity never seen before, but many other problems are crying out with equal urgency–the HIV-AIDS epidemic in southern Africa; starvation in many parts of the world; the cycle of poverty that affects so many children right in Canada. It will take more money and more organization and effort than we have previously applied, but IT CAN BE DONE. The tsunami relief effort is proof.
Instead of wasting money on superfluous activities such as corporate take-over battles, how about channeling those funds into the sort of good works that will make a real difference to people. Let’s make this a year of good news.