Disaster Relief Posts

Crowdsourcing Compassion from a Global Community

“The war in Liberia and the Ebola situation we are going through are enough to tell us what those people are going through.”  — Nelly Cooper, President, West Point Women for Health and Development

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After the devastating April 2015 earthquakes, Nepali communities are working to rebuild, and the GlobalGiving community has stepped up to respond with tremendous compassion. We’ve seen people giving from 111 countries around the world, including young children, grandparents, Nepali citizens, climbers who have summited Mt. Everest, and leading companies and their employees. Among this outpouring of generosity, one $200 donation and its accompanying message stood out to the GlobalGiving staff:

“We’re donating this money because we know what it is like to be in a situation like the one the people of Nepal find themselves in.  Many of us were so devastated during the war in Liberia; we lost everything, even loved ones. Now looking at what we saw on TV and on the internet about Nepal, really motivated us to help with the little we are able to give right now.”

The donation was sent by the grassroots nonprofit West Point Women for Health and Development, a GlobalGiving partner working in the Liberian capital of Monrovia.  Over the past year, Nelly Cooper, the organization’s president, and the West Point Women have played a vital role in the frontline fight against Ebola. Many volunteered to lead community education and advocacy efforts during the epidemic’s height, even as their own families were affected by the disease. The West Point Women have helped Liberia become Ebola-free, and they have a unique understanding of how such crises impact communities in the near and long terms.

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The West Point Women for Health and Development volunteer team were at the front lines in the fight against Ebola

You, as part of the GlobalGiving community, have played an important role, too. The work of the West Point Women has been funded, in part, by donations to GlobalGiving’s Ebola Epidemic Relief Fund. We’re so touched by their own generosity and desire to ‘pay it forward’ to other GlobalGiving partners.

This isn’t the first time that nonprofits in the GlobalGiving community have supported one another from across the world during times of need: New Orleans-based Tipitina’s Foundation is dedicated to helping at-risk youth access musical instruments and education. In March 2011, Tipitina used funds they had raised for their own program to purchase instruments for programs working with Japanese youth impacted by the tsunami. Noted Kim Katner, Managing Director of Tipitina’s Foundation, “I personally know that I would not have made it through the aftermath of Katrina if it wasn’t for music.”

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After the 2011earthquake and tsunami in Japan, kids from Tipitina used money they’d raised to buy their own instruments to send Instruments to Bright Kids Music Club of the Tagajo-Higashi Elementary School

Most recently, a team of Japanese and Korean volunteers, affected by their own local crises (the 2011 tsunami and 2014 ferry disaster, respectively), traveled to Nepal to build temporary shelters with IsraAID. The volunteers are also providing psychosocial support to earthquake survivors and sharing their own personal experiences with recovery and rebuilding.

“When we created GlobalGiving, we knew that nonprofits in our community would benefit from sharing ideas, information, and connections. But we never imagined that we’d see the community come together in this way, with Ebola survivors in Liberia or tsunami survivors from Korea demonstrating such generosity to earthquake survivors a half a world away,” said Mari Kuraishi, GlobalGiving co-founder and president.  “With GlobalGiving, it’s possible for anyone in the world to make a meaningful, positive difference, especially after a tragedy.”

Special thanks to Menaka Chandurkar for her collaboration on this article. 

From the ground: Accountability Lab’s Nepal earthquake relief efforts

Mobile Helpdesk volunteer assisting Nepali man after the earthquake

For earthquake relief in Nepal, connection is key. Displaced Nepali citizens found themselves unable to connect with organizations to provide essential needs, like food, water, and medical aid. Accountability Lab is dedicated to making this connection possible.

At GlobalGiving, we were fortunate enough to get in contact with Narayan Adhikari, the representative for Accountability Lab: South Asia, and gather a bit of look into what is happening on the ground in Nepal. Through their Mobile Citizen Helpdesk project, Narayan and Accountability Lab have been able to visit over 65 communities and directly solve over 100 problems for citizens. Last month, we conducted this interview with Narayan over email.

GlobalGiving (GG): Tell us about the situation where you are right now.

Narayan Adhikari (NA): I am in Nepal now, working with 32 Citizen Helpdesk volunteers. Despite huge tragedy, the helpdesk volunteers have been working around the clock to visit places where people have sheltered, hospitalized and displaced. I am also working with other Citizen Helpdesk partners, the government of Nepal, and the donor community to consolidate everyone’s efforts to provide assistance to the people on the ground.

GG: What is the most urgent need facing survivors?

NA: Not enough tents for shelter, rescue operation are predominantly limited to urban areas and their peripheries, while many families from remote district have been left out from receiving the support they need. Food supplies are very limited in many remote villages. The aid agencies are facing huge challenges to coordinate with one another and conduct needs assessment for proper and fair distribution of relief.

People finding the resources they need to survive

GG: What kinds of assistance are you providing to survivors? 

NA: We are visiting the affected areas with the help of our volunteers, collecting information from direct interaction with victims, listening to their problems, helping them obtain appropriate information, and connecting them with relief organizations and the government. We are also working with the government to assess their data received from citizens through the mobile hotline 1234, where more than 25,000 voice calls have been received directly from citizens.

GG: What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing in delivering aid?

NA: One of the biggest challenges is getting the right information about the disaster. The media reports and government data are frequently not available. Other key challenges in the aid delivery are: lack of coordination among relief organization and government; unequal and unfair distribution of relief packages; difficulty reaching the most affected areas in remote districts. We are working to help alleviate these challenges as much as possible. Our biggest challenges is quickly raising the funds needed to roll this project out as far as possible.

GG: What do you believe the long-term recovery needs will be?

NA: More mobile helpdesks are needed to assess needs and gather feedback from the local people. The information should be shared with government and aid agencies, and these stakeholders should manage relief efforts with strong and efficient routes to reach affected households and individuals.

The current mechanism of budget allocation and disbursement is a very slow, lengthy, highly corrupt, and overly political process, and it is not going to solve the problem at all as long as we are not able to create short-cuts for the current disbursement mechanism (i.e. from center to household without any intermediately).

Individual households need to be provided with enough support with technical skills, proper materials and labor to sustainably re-build their homes. There has to be citizen oversight to monitor relief and make sure it is utilized in effective ways.

Volunteers creating strategy for weeks ahead.

GG: How long do you expect to be working on relief and recovery efforts?

NA: At least 2 years. Even as we transition back to our other accountability programs, earthquake relief and the accountability of the aid system will continue to be a key issue and component that they cover.

GG: How does the situation compare to other disasters you’ve responded to in the past?

NA: We have not experienced anything like this before in Nepal. The other key country that Accountability Lab works in is Liberia—which just faced the deadly Ebola crisis last year. That it was a very different sort of crisis, and our response there focused more on creative awareness campaigns. However, in both situations we had to mobilize quickly, find ways for citizens to get involved in improving their community, and try to build trust between citizens and their government. Both have affected all aspects of the country and will have long-term repercussions.

GG: From your perspective, are relief efforts well-coordinated between the various NGOs and government responders? 

NA: Not really, and that is part of the reason why we’ve set up the Mobile Citizen Helpdesks. With better coordination between NGOs and government, the people would can get better quality support, sooner.

GG: What about the situation currently in Nepal do you think most people may be unaware of?

NA: People are traumatized and are full of fear. Many people, especially from affected communities, do not have any idea what to do and have not been able to get reliable information and direct channels to raise their voices.

Some of Accountability Lab's enthusiastic volunteer

GG: What are the advantages that a local NGO has over an international NGO? vice versa?

NA: Local NGOs are more connected with the locals and understand the situation better than INGOs. Thus they have more human capital and contextual understanding, while INGOs typically have more financial resources.

GG: What about Nepal specifically makes responding to this earthquake a unique challenge?

NA: Nepal hasn’t had local elections in 18 years so there is very little accountability in the local government, which has an important role to play in distributing aid. There is systemic corruption and a highly inefficient bureaucracy in the government that has delayed Constitution making for years, and is in many responding similarly to the disaster. Furthermore, given Nepal’s poor economy, a huge number of Nepalis work abroad, thus leaving a gap in an important work force. On the other hand, Nepal has a very active youth and civil society population that have risen to the challenge in many ways.


How Can You Help?

The relief effort in Nepal is far from over. Narayan and the Accountability Lab team are continuing to work tirelessly to provide more connection and information to the citizens of Nepal.  With the continued kindness and generosity of the GlobalGiving community, you can help make the Mobile Citizen Helpdesk network even stronger.

You can donate to Accountability Lab here on GlobalGiving.

Guest Post: Why You Should Help the Nepalis, and How to Start

This post was written by Chris Wolz, GlobalGiving Board Member, and President/CEO Forum One.

When I heard Saturday morning, April 25, 2015, that there had been an earthquake in Nepal, I let out a gasp and uttered to myself “oh, no.” Oh no. Like many who have lived and worked in Nepal, I love the Nepali people and their beautiful, colorful, chaotic, friendly country. I also know that Kathmandu city is jammed full of 1+ million people, and narrow lanes lined with many shoddily built, and brittle, brick buildings. And I’ve walked through many villages in the surrounding hills, past the humble stone and mud walled homes of farm families, homes that probably won’t withstand an earthquake.

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Chris with the Bhajogun Village Water Committee in 1984

Nepal is a place close to our family. My wife Eugenie and I both worked there for four years right out of college. I worked for the Peace Corps and UNICEF and the Nepali Government building drinking water systems in the rural hills near Ilam, and Eugenie was nearby with the Dutch Development Agency (SNV) on a UNICEF women’s microcredit program. We eventually met, as Eugenie’s Nepali village friends had long urged (!), and, long story short, we started our adventure together as a couple and family.

While in Nepal for four years, we lived and worked side by side with Nepalis every day. We came to know them as almost universally friendly, helpful, and kind, in ways we had not seen, then, or since, in the US or Europe. Many of them face daily challenges and struggles that few of us have to experience, but do it while living lives full of joy, laughter, music, and wonder. They will invite you in to be their guest for the best lunch they can muster, and the chance to quiz you about your family and life back home — and laugh in wonder in hearing that a milk cow back home gives about eight gallons (!!) a day. I’m not the first to say this, but it’s really true that Nepal is one of the most special places on this planet, partly because of the mountains, but mostly because of the wonderful Nepali people.

Unfortunately, Nepal is also a country that has long had major challenges in economic growth, being an isolated landlocked country with stupendous hills and mountains. In addition, they’ve had domestic political strife and dysfunction for about the past 20 years. And so Nepal’s support systems, social services, health care, housing, power infrastructure, water and sanitation systems are strained and vulnerable in the best of times.

This earthquake has been long anticipated, and long dreaded. The area affected around Kathmandu and towards Pokhara is huge, and I expect that it will end up affecting many hundreds of thousands of people, and likely for years. In Kathmandu they will need to rebuild many buildings, water and sewer systems, schools, and more. And in the hills, they will need to rebuild homes and whole village economies.

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Children waiting patiently for the Wolz family at a school that Eugenie helped to fund 25 years before. 2009.

Nepal is about as far away from the US, and US minds, as you can get — some 10 time zones away and another world, culturally. I know it’s hard for people to relate to a disaster that is so distant and in such a foreign place. But, think of Nepal as full of warm people who would help you out in a pinch if they could, and thank you profusely for any help you could give them. (This kids in this picture had made marigold garlands that they lined up to give to Eugenie and our family in a show of gratitude for the school.)

And so, to help these people who are suffering and have limited support systems, and also, for the betterment of global humanity, we should do as much as we can to help the Nepalis rebuild now and in the coming years. I’d urge you to think about how much you typically give to support a humanitarian crisis like this, and then think further about whether you could double it. Or even add a zero. Good karma.

This crisis will continue for far longer than it is in the headlines of our papers here. Villagers out in places like Gorkha typically keep their food stocks, rice and lentils for 12 months, stored in bins in their homes, and which may now be under a pile of rubble. The same with any cash or gold they might have. They will not have much to eat nor much to rebuild from. And in villages and Kathmandu, the availability of clean water, and human waste sanitation, are always a challenge; now, those systems are broken, the monsoon is approaching in about a month, and thus cholera outbreaks a heightened risk.

GlobalGiving HomepageI’ve been on the Board of GlobalGiving for four years, and have seen how effective it is in supporting the work of charities in such a disaster. GlobalGiving already has a network of several dozen project partners on the ground in Nepal, working on various projects in education, health care, economic development. And in a disaster like this these groups will also be first to act to help in rescue and rebuilding. Thank you for giving what you can. I know that all donations to this GlobalGiving fund will bring a lot of value to the Nepali people.

Thanks, and Jai Nepal!

 

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Disasters and Development: Reflections from the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan

Eva Jocelyn Ship in Tacloban CityAt the end of last year, I had the opportunity to travel to the Philippines and to visit GlobalGiving’s local partners that have been driving the Super Typhoon Haiyan recovery effort. (The storm was known locally as Typhoon Yolanda.) One year after the disaster, some of the most powerful remnants from the destruction have become benign landmarks and regular photo ops for visitors, like this 3,000 ton ship that washed into a community in Tacloban City. This juxtaposition of the terrifying and the mundane is a fitting metaphor for the complex road to recovery.

This short video brings to you to some of the people and issues I came across in the Philippines one year after Haiyan.(I’m narrating the video.)

Click to watch a short video about GlobalGiving's visit to the Philippines one year after Typhoon Haiyan

Click to watch a short video about GlobalGiving’s visit to the Philippines one year after Typhoon Haiyan

On my long flight home I reflected back on my many conversations in the Philippines; here are some observations that kept running through my mind:

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.57.51 PM1. There is a vital need for ongoing support after disasters fade from the headlines.  Since Haiyan struck the Philippines last year, donors on GlobalGiving have delivered nearly $2.4 million in support of 33 locally-driven nonprofits performing relief and recovery work. When images of the disaster were flooding the newsfeeds, it was relatively easy for us and our nonprofit partners to mobilize donor support. However, as Natalie from International Disaster Volunteers explains in the video, as the work turns from rescue and relief to long-term recovery, many communities are left without the resources they need to get back on their feet.

One the tools we have for addressing these longer-term needs in disaster-affected areas is the anniversary campaign. On the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan we held a matching campaign, offering $100,000 in matching funds for organizations still working in the Haiyan-affected areas. This recent campaign helped Filipino organizations raise an additional $103,773 from 405 donors for ongoing recovery work after Haiyan. The matching incentives motivate donors to give to support ongoing needs. These donations alone this won’t rebuild the Philippines, but they are an important part of reinforcing the links between local communities and the global community of donors.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.58.08 PM2. Disasters highlight underlying needs for development. When I asked Filipinos about the largest need one year after Haiyan, many people said “livelihoods.” But interestingly, they couldn’t agree on whether the livelihoods situation was better or worse than before the disaster (and the international aid response that followed). To me, this underscores the fact that underemployment is an ongoing issue in the Philippines, and it’s simply one that’s been exacerbated by the natural disasters—including Haiyan.

PBSP, represented by Jay in the video, is a large civil society organization that is funding cash-for-work programs for local villagers who want to re-plant their lost mangroves. This program not only addresses the livelihood issue, but also the deforestation and damage to local watersheds and ecosystems, problems that have existed for years and whose effects were only compounded by the disaster. Livelihood and ecosystem programs generally fall in the category of ongoing needs for ‘development,’ not just disaster relief, but they can spell the difference between a disaster setting back a community for decades or a community being able to cope and move on. That’s why our ‘disaster’ strategy starts and ends with supporting local development efforts.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.56.24 PM3. Disasters can be an opportunity to build local capacity. When disasters do happen, we work to get leaders like Elmer and his organization, WAND, the immediate funding they need to respond, and then we help them leverage those disasters as a way to build skills, expertise, and awareness of ongoing structural issues in their communities. I’ve emailed back and forth with Elmer nearly a dozen times since my visit, and I’ve seen how he’s developing the relationships with the many donors that WAND acquired while they were in disaster-response mode. On the one-year anniversary campaign, Elmer is testing new ways of engaging donors around deadlines and matching incentives, all while building his own networks and fundraising skills. In building his fundraising capacity he’s also building toward sustainability.

When I asked Filipinos if they feared another big storm, every one of them said yes. For many, it wasn’t a question of “if” another devastating typhoon would happen, but “when.” (In fact, in just the 2 months since I returned, the Philippines has already been hit by some very scary storms.) I’m glad to know that for Natalie, Jay, Elmer, and many other local leaders, GlobalGiving is a long-term partner in their growth, learning, and capacity, as they keep their eyes on development and resilience in the Philippines.

 

The Power of Crowdfunding to Fight Ebola

This article was originally posted on the Philanthropy News Digest PhilanTopic Blog.

In DecTIMEcoverember, TIME magazine named Ebola Fighters — doctors, nurses, caregivers, scientists, and medical directors “who answered the call,” often putting their own lives on the line — as its “Person of the Year.” We couldn’t agree more: local West Africans and long-time residents like our friend and partner Katie Meyler and her colleague Iris are courageous, vital, and worthy of support.

While much of the emergency funding from private donors and companies has been channeled to U.S. government partnerships and programs, we’ve been focused on helping donors reach the “last mile” with their donations. Aaron Debah is familiar with that last mile. Aaron, a Liberian nurse, has rallied his neighbors to go house-to-house to combat rumors and misinformation in a culturally relevant way. He’s also producing a local radio show about Ebola to spread the message more widely in the community. Through Internews, GlobalGiving donors are funding motorbikes for community activists, a scanner/copier/printer, and mobile phones, among other items. Through their actions, people like Aaron are making an enormous difference in the fight against the virus at a hyper-local level.

Radio producer and nurse Aaron Debah and his colleague Roosevelt Dolo (L) are coordinating community volunteers to fight Ebola in Liberia.

Radio producer and nurse Aaron Debah and his colleague Roosevelt Dolo (L) are coordinating community volunteers to fight Ebola in Liberia.

$3 Million and Counting for Locally Driven Ebola Solutions

At the end of 2014, we announced that we had helped raise more than $3 million for Ebola relief from donors in sixty-eight countries through the GlobalGiving community. We’re currently crowdfunding for more than 29 community organizations that are preventing and fighting the spread of the virus in West Africa. By giving to local nonprofits that are deeply rooted in the affected areas, donors are supporting organizations that were creating change in their own communities long before this Ebola outbreak — and will be there to drive the recovery of the region over the long term.

More than 3,800 individuals have given to over 30 Ebola relief projects on GlobalGiving.org and GlobalGiving.co.uk, including GlobalGiving’s Ebola Epidemic Relief Fund. In November, a $200 donation to the fund came from a community of concerned people in Mozambique: “Though it may not seem like much, this is equivalent to two months minimum wage here. Thank you for connecting our hearts with fellow Africans who are suffering!” said Brian, the man whose family collected and sent the donations to GlobalGiving.

Private foundations have joined the thousands of individual donors to support locally driven organizations combating Ebola in West Africa through GlobalGiving. In August, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation gave $100,000 to the GlobalGiving Ebola Epidemic Relief Fund in the form of a matching grant, motivating more than seven hundred individual donors to give $100,000 over a span of just four days. In September, the Sall Family Foundation also gave $100,000 and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation contributed $400,000. And in November the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust gave $2.2 million to the fund.

Transparency around this funding is important to us. Each of the nonprofits on GlobalGiving has been vetted and has committed to providing donors regular updates about how donations are put to work. We’re also publishing donation data to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) on a daily basis.

A Marketplace That Creates Local Resilience

As 2014 was coming to a close, Jennifer Lentfer, a leading blogger on aid effectiveness, made this comment: “Grassroots groups fighting Ebola have formidable challenge. They must continually seek out and compete for new resources in a funding environment that favors short-term grants to larger, higher-profile groups and that is often led by global trends rather than persistent, ongoing challenges.”

Jennifer is right, and that’s exactly the reason the GlobalGiving marketplace exists. We work not only to connect small groups to major funding, but to help those organizations build their own capacity and funding networks so that their communities will be stronger and more resilient in the face of ongoing challenges and future crises.

For us at GlobalGiving, it’s about even more than just access to funding. We’re also making sure that local organizations have access to the information and ideas they need to be as effective as possible with the money they do have. We’re connecting organizations of all sizes to technology and information that would have otherwise only been available to major international NGOs.

More Than Just Funding: Access to Technology That Could Help Stop Ebola

In November, several of our nonprofit partners in West Africa highlighted a major challenge: they needed faster access to data from the field. We connected those nonprofits with Journey, a South African technology company with a history of success developing mobile health solutions in Africa. Journey is now working with GlobalGiving partners to create and distribute the Ebola Care app, helping health workers track individual patients, coordinate education events, follow up with at-risk children and orphans, and log data about survivors.

EbolaCareApp“In order to be effective during any crisis, being able to access real-time data is critical, as time is of the essence,” Sam Herring, data manager for More Than Me, one of our partners that is using the app in the slum of West Point, Liberia, explains. “Thanks to the Ebola Care app, data that once took weeks to get to us is now rolling in by the minute. This allows us to identify hot zones, have our ambulance transport suspected Ebola patients to Ebola treatment units immediately, send in our social mobilization team to provide psychosocial support, food, and cleaning items to affected homes, and enable our nursing team to educate residents about prevention.”

Together with Journey, we’ve mobilized smartphone donations for nonprofits that have the desire and capacity to use the app. And after developing it with input from some of our with local partners in Liberia, Journey is distributing the app on smartphones to other GlobalGiving partners who have expressed interest. Journey also continues to gather feedback and improve the app based on feedback from the field so that it will become even more effective in meeting the needs of health workers on the ground.

MariTEDxOur co-founder, Mari, gave a TEDx talk earlier this year in which she noted that “the power of crowdfunding isn’t in the funding, it’s in the crowd.” We’ve seen that idea come to life over the past several months as we invest in organizations networking to support the fight against Ebola. As long as there are unmet needs in local communities from Monrovia to Mumbai, Mexico to Minneapolis, GlobalGiving will continue to mobilize crowds to level the playing field for local change-makers.

You can learn more about the GlobalGiving partners responding to the Ebola outbreak here: globalgiving.org/ebola