Saturday, January 16, 2010

Yele, Wth Fear?

Yesterday, I wrote that I made my earthquake relief donation through Yele Haiti, the foundation established by Haitian musician Wyclef Jean. I liked the idea of donating to a group with roots in Haiti, plus my personal experience with small foundations and advocacy groups is very positive and predisposed me to support one. Small institutions are often effective at addressing otherwise overlooked issues and can be adept at identifying and responding to emerging needs. The Christian Science Monitor raised some concerns about Yele's overhead, but also recognized that the expenses were well within the expected amount for a small foundation. Yele appeared on enough lists of recommended groups that I figured it was a safe bet.

I may have figured wrong, although I'm still not sure. Questions have been raised about how efficiently Yele is run and the appropriateness of some past expenses. Disaster relief specialists question how soon it can bring its donations to bear in Haiti since it has no experience in disaster relief. Read more here, here, and here. No one questions Yele's sincerity or that they have done good work in Haiti. No one appears to doubt that donations will eventually reach Haiti. The main issue is whether Yele is prepared to efficiently apply and distribute the contributions they've received in a timely manner. For donors and would-be donors, this is the key point.

In terms of raising money, Yele has been successful, unquestionably. The technique of fund raising through cell phone texting has been widely admired and praised. Yele brought in over a million dollars in the first 24 hours after the earthquake; how much of that money would have gone to other charities anyway is an open question. And, it has partnered with other first responders, presumably to provide an avenue for effectively bringing the donations to bear on the ground.

So, is Yele the best way to help Haiti? I don't regret my contribution, but I'm going to hedge my bet by giving to the Doctors Without Borders as well. Unless someone can think of a good reason not to...

You can help Haiti and simultaneously thumb your nose at Rush Limbaugh by donating through the Clinton Foundation...

Oxfam is working to address one of Haiti's biggest problems, the absence of water. But they only have 114,000 gallons on hand...


Steven said...

Bush AND Clinton have also teamed up to create an organization that promises 100% of the donation goes to Haiti's needs. You can still thumb your nose at El Largo Rushbo by donating here as well. It seems obvious that the republicans have washed their hands of dubya and don't even bother to try defending him any more. So now he hangs out with Democrats hoping that a little common sense will rub off on him.

Steven said...

Second's hard to think of any organization that is more deserving, 365 days a year, than Doctors Without Borders.

Roy said...

Drs Without Borders is certainly a good choice, especially as they were already there on the scene before the earthquake hit, and their other Dr members are coming in from other areas of the world to help out with this particular disaster. And they probably need the money for necessary medical supplies - their own local headquarters were destroyed by the earthquake.

That's been one of the ironic stories of this particular disaster - there were tons of relief societies active in Haiti before the earthquake because the country is normally poverty-ridden: the UN, the International Red Cross, Drs Without Borders, and a host of others. But when the disaster hit they were as bad off as the rest, as all their headquarters, clinics, hospitals, etc. were flattened with everything else in Port au Prince, and many of their personnel on the scene were buried in the rubble as well. If there was ever a worse place in the world for a natural disaster to hit than Haiti...

Molly The Dog said...

Yay for Doctors without Borders. That's who I gave my money to. They are an absolutely fabulous organization. They've been around for a long time and have gone places others won't go. If I didn't have to commit so much time out of the country, I'd volunteer with them. Who knows, maybe I will someday.

Molly The Dog said...

Also, I want to encourage you to read Mountains Beyond Mountains. It's about Dr Paul Farmer and his organization called Partners in Health. They've been in Haiti a long time setting up medical clinics.

Editilla~New Orleans Ladder said...

May I direct you to the NPR interview with the head of Yele'
Particularly the last question and his answer to it which really must be heard on the thingy above:
[ULABY: Yele Haiti has also been criticized because its Web site claims 100 percent of donations now are going to earthquake relief. That's true, says Locke; overhead costs are paid from its base budget. And because this is not just a story about dollars and cents, I asked Locke if he had lost staff in the earthquake. This is how he responded.
(Soundbite of labored breathing)]
Allow me to translate: the man could not speak through his grief.

I do not doubt that there is hardball PR going on right now between Aid Agencies for a share of the compassion dollars. This is how I feel about the accusations against Yele' after listening to this story.
The world of philanthropy is actually quite often a very cut-throat game of survival of the richest.
A little group like Yele' cannot compete with big dogs like Oxfam and Clinton/Bush, the latter manifesting Klein's Shock Doctrine writ large.

I'm just saying, I have followed Yele' for some time and Wycleff's career. Thus I too contributed without a second thought when it became available and again after hearing this npr story, actually after hearing that last answer.

Editilla~New Orleans Ladder said...

Here is Wycleff discussing this PR smear.

That is what I am calling it, particularly the CS article, full of innuendo but no facts. As the facts emerge, it is becoming increasingly evident that CS engaged, unwittingly or not, in a smear campaign of one of the only few actual Haitians left standing enough to help their people.

I have yet to discover how this story got to and thus came from the CS Monitor. I already know how it has now spread across appx 50 different media outlets as they repost the CS. That is how aggregates work. I call it Spread, in this case like blood on the cross.

I am hoping others would help get to the bottom of this smear and help eliminate it. "This is no time for politics" said goddamned George W Bush.

So the next best thing we can do here for Haiti is take care of our own Media. When we find this sort of unscrupulous horse shit we publish it with links.
As soon as I find the links, you will be the first to know.

Compassion is truly a double-edged sword.
Om Mani Padme Hum

K. said...

There is more than a whiff of cultural imperialism here, as the largely white media attacks a small black foundation to the gain of large mainstream charities. There's a legitimate question as to how well any small organization can handle sudden growth, although it certainly has been done. And as I wrote in the post, there are good reasons to give to small organizations, including choosing a group founded by a Haitian for Haitians that already has a track record.

BTW, Wyclef makes a fair point about the costs of putting on a concert, even a benefit. While he may be able to afford to work for free, the musicians and crew can't.