Friday, 13 February 2009

cold, hard currency

We all want, badly, to help the bushfire victims.

Indeed because so many of us want urgently to do this there is no way any kind of material object donation (short of stockfeed, or long-term lending a house or caravan you own) can be helpful. To donate goods that haven't been specifically asked for is both wasteful and a nuisance. So don't do it. Send money. Sell the stuff you've got that you were going to donate, and donate money instead. If it's not sellable, then it's certainly not donatable.

I know that this is frustrating because we want to give meaningful gifts, we are not comfortable with giving plain old money and we do not think it adequately conveys the depth of our feeling.

Frustrating, yes. But, too bad - get over it, and send money. If you've bought stuff, take it back, get a refund, and send the cash.

Send money to the Red Cross. (International readers, this totally means you, too. Consider it a token of appreciation for whatever fun you've got out of reading this blog over the years.)


librarygirl said...

You are so right. My daughter's high school raised $7,500 on Tuesday by holding a free dress day for the kids, whereas my son's primary school asked for toiletries...truck was going to Whittlesea this morning...I did go and buy $20 worth so he could take things in but I felt I should have just given money, worried by over supply and waste. My library service was asked to donate books and magazines for browsing/ reading when the displaced people want some distraction.

lucy tartan said...

The child care centre at work was asked to supply books, too. When the relief organisations ask for specific things, that's the time to provide them.

Another Outspoken Female said...

Absolutely. Money now. If you have no spare cash have a garage sale, set up a lemonade stand, auction a handmade bag or two (hint :)...

I think people will need more tangible things most once the shock has subsided. I'd like to see working bees, building, painting, gardening and all those sorts of things when those who choose to, rebuild. But that is month/years away and I am not sure how long people's good intentions will last.

In the meantime...can we stop calling them victims. These people are survivors of the most amazing kind!

Ampersand Duck said...

Yeah, I chose the Red Cross to give a donation to. Tthey just seemed the most concrete and useful choice at the time.

Bumblebee's school did a fundraiser today, don't know what they raised yet, but it was initiated by two small girls who have a very politically active and dynamic future ahead of them.

Zoe said...

Sage's school had a uniform free day too, organised by two Year 6 girls.

A Canberra transport company asked for toys, clothes and non perishable food and got so much stuff quickly they were chockers.

Heggie said...

Cold hard cash is easy to give - a couple of moments on the computer, hit confirm and it's all over.
Your blood is easy to give - 20 mins out of your life, a cup of tea and it's all over.
Sometimes you still feel driven to give more.
You want someone who has lost every possession they had to receive a gift from a stranger. To have them know that there are others out there who are thinking of them and care enough about their plight to spend the time and effort to make something from the heart.

Sometimes it is okay to do more than just "show me the money".

lucy tartan said...

I agree with your last sentence Heggie. But with the emphasis on 'sometimes', and right now, before any of this has sunk in and while people are still unable to begin getting their lives back together, is not the right time.

I'm not sure I agree that giving money is less meaningful or heartfelt than giving a homemade handbag. That's a mighty big call. Given how useful we know money can occasionally be.

lauredhel said...

Heggie, I'm not sure if this was deliberate, but the phrasing of your comment is all talking about what is easy or hard for you, and what you "want".

Disaster relief isn't about what you want or how donating makes you feel, it's about the people who need the relief, and getting it to them in the most effective way.

Right now relief centres are absolutely flooded with goods. Some have have no storage left, and volunteers are swamped dealing with it.

eg :

"People at the meeting said they were concerned charitable organisations were being swamped with mountains of clothing and other goods, leaving volunteers working long days to sort through items. [...] “We’ve heard today people have been generous with household items, but there is now enough and for a lot of people when your house has been burnt down a bed or toaster is not much good to you - accommodation and financial assistance is more what is needed.”

Both the Red Cross and the Salvos have asked for people to _stop_ donating household goods. The Salvos have nowhere to store it.

The absurdity of people in Perth going out and buying toothpaste and undies retail, then shipping them to Melbourne to be collated, sorted through, and distributed, seems to have escaped lots of people who just want the feel-good buzz that some poor tokenistic unfortunate is using the very toothpaste that once passed through their hands. People need to suck it up, listen to aid agences, and do what's actually needed.

Heggie said...

Goes without saying - donating money to the Red Cross is a no-brainer. Give all that you can and then give a little more.
Donating goods is usually a knee-jerk reaction to "what the hell can I do NOW for the victims of this disaster". Maybe it's not an act of stupidity - maybe it's just an act of compassion - not practical but well-meant.
A local community school up my way is working, through the Red Cross, to take responsibility for re-equipping their namesake school in Victoria. The parents are sourcing the desks, chairs etc. The students are gathering stationery packs for their counterparts. And the members of the school's Craft Group are putting together "stash packs" for fellow crafters. For the knitters they are supplying knitting needles, yarn and patterns. For the patchworkers they are supplying fabric, sissors, thread. And so on.
I wonder if a handbag might not be useful to contain the paperwork that will no doubt come the victims way and hopefully some cash that might empower them to make their own choices. Maybe a little more dignified than putting items in a plastic shopping bag.
If I am being honest with myself I will acknowledge that I act and think in a way that make me feel good. I would also like to think that when a disaster of this magnitude happens most of us "get over it" and are motivated to act out of empathy for others.

Maybe I am wrong.

It was never my intention to judge others - I just wanted to question.

That's all from me - I am stepping down off my soapbox.

M-H said...

I like the idea of the school re-equipping another school. Makes it personal for the children. I think the key to your second comment is the phrase "...through the Red Cross...", who have no doubt determined a) what is needed and b) what can be dealt with. Nothing wrong with that.

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