Monthly Archives: January 2010

Haiti: A Call to Responsible Action

Yesterday evening, a huge, 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit right outside Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti. There is a small timetable where the most vulnerable – those who are trapped under the rubble, who are injured, and who lack access to clean water, food, and medical supplies. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “the International Red Cross estimates as many as three million people may have been left homeless by Tuesday’s earthquake in Haiti.” (Source)

With an education in Communty Development, I understand the importance of doing relief work quickly and efficiently in situations such as this one. Those who are experienced in this type of work are the ones who need to be supported right now.

Often times people who have very good intentions want to help, and believe that the most effective way to help is by going to be at the location of a natural disaster right after the event happens. When inexperienced people come to the site of a natural disaster, there is great potential to hinder the relief operations and/or to not be as culturally sensitive to the needs of the affected people.

As of a couple hours ago, the airport in Port-au-Prince is still closed, so it is very hard to even get experienced relief workers into the country. I am following Twitter updates from the Food for the Hungry Emergency Relief Unit. Their past couple of tweets indicate this. You can follow them at

If people are looking for the best possible way to give in the immediate future, I would encourage them to give financially, and to pray. Pray that the relief operations will be able to start as soon as possible, and that the necessary people and supplies would be able to enter the country.

The following organizations are ones that I would be comfortable giving my money to for the purposes of relief work in Haiti (more will be added soon to this list).

Below is a list of more organizations (Here’s the source of a lot from this list. I am adding to it):
Emmanuel Gospel Center:
Haiti Reborn:
Church World Services:
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance:
World Vision:
Bright Hope:
UMC Disaster Response:
Christian Aid:
Mercy Corps:
American Red Cross:
United Church of Christ:
Disciple’s Week of Compassion:
Episcopal Relief:
Reformed Church in America:
Habitat For Humanity:
Haiti Emergency Relief Fund:
World Care:
Save the Children:

Despite the quick action that the current crisis calls for, Haiti has a long road ahead of them filled with recovery and development. Once the days have turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, Haiti will need more than handouts intended for relief in the immediate aftermath of the quake.

There is a big difference between relief and development. Relief can be defined as helping people who are helpless to meet their most basic needs. Development, on the other hand, should be done when people ARE able to meet their most basic needs.

The challenge that those who want to help Haiti in the long run face is allowing Haitians to take control of THEIR country, and to make decisions for themselves. As development practitioners, we must be thinking about helping the poor to help themselves.

Bryant Myers, in his book “Walking With the Poor,” describes 4 key relationships that must be addressed in community development work:

  1. Relationship with God
  2. Relationship with Self
  3. Relationship with Others
  4. Relationship with the Environment

If the poor do not know God as their personal savior, they are missing out on the most important thing. If they think they they personally do not have any skills or experiences to help themselves, then they are living in denial and must be encouraged and shown that they DO have God-given skills, gifts and abilities. If they have several enemies, some of whom may be more powerful and oppress them, then they will most likely loose the little bit that they do have through bribes and oppression. And finally, if they do not take care of the environment or know how to plant a garden, then they will have a much harder time putting food onto the table.

I firmly believe that Community Development must begin with affirming the poor for who they are, for their abilities, and for their ability to make decisions. Americans (and other rich, primarily-Western developers) must not make decisions for the poor, and must not do things “For” or “To” the poor.

Instead, we are called to something better. We are called to affirm their dignity. We are called to let them make their own decisions, and let them tell us what they need.

William Easterly would agree. In his book, “The White Man’s Burden, Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done so Much Ill and so Little Good,” he writes “Poor people have already accomplished far more for themselves than [people who make plans disregarding the poor’s interest] have accomplished for them.” He also writes, “The needs of the poor don’t get met because the poor have little money or political power with which to make their needs known and they cannot hold anyone accountable to meet those needs.”

Over the next weeks and months, let us continue to help Haiti by allowing them to make their own decisions. Donated money is good. Missions trips are good (when done appropriately). We can still HELP! But we need to do so responsibly.

But first, the cry for relief for over 3 million people ring out. Let us give generously. Let us pray hard. And let us hope for the best.


CCDA, Part II: Thoughts from the Conference

Coming over two months after the end of the CCDA conference in Cincinatti, I fear that my memory is a little bit rusty. However, I think that I owe myself and my readers a summary of what I took away from this event. Even more so because of the way that I quickly wrote a blog post asking for help, in the middle of the conference (in the middle of the night, no less)!

The Christian Community Development Association is an organization made up of thousands of committed Christians in the United States who are working with America’s poor. This past conference was the second that I attended, the first being in the fall of 2007.

My experience was a little different this time around. I am now a college graduate. As many of you know, I am currently working as an AmeriCorps intern volunteer with the Christian organization, TechMission. TechMission is located in Boston, and is an organization that is committed to connecting volunteers with Christian organizations (you can learn more at 1 of their 3 websites,,, or I travelled with several of my coworkers to the conference and even helped represent TechMission throughout the event.

In addition, I am now actively involved on Twitter and have slowly begun over the past few months to rebrand myself and my presence on the internet. Throughout the conference, I was aware that people were following me on Twitter, and that I had the opportunity to literally impart “words of wisdom” (later, I will highlight some of my favorite tweets from the conference).

For me, I left Cincinatti feeling very encouraged and energized. Having studied Community Development at Covenant College under the authors of When Helping Hurts, I am used to a lot of the same rhetoric that was talked about at CCDA. But hearing personal stories, fresh perspectives and new ideas was a huge encouragement.

Here are some of my favorite quotes, which I tweeted, during the conference:
Shane Claiborne: God didn’t create rich and poor, he created brothers and sisters.

John Perkins, CCDA Founder: How can we love God but NOT love others? We are called to simply love God, and love others.

Aaron Graham: People are the most critical resource in advocacy. We have the power of faith.

Bart Campolo: There are some people you can’t fix, some people you can’t help, but there is NO ONE you can’t love.

Alexia Salvatierra: When we move into compassion we move into truth.

Jim Wallis: We are in the mountain moving business… We have to be wind changers and not just address symptoms.

Shane Claiborne: There is a danger to see people as clients rather than friends.

Wayne Gordon: The Key component of the CCDA is to listen. The people with the problem probably have a solution to the problem.

Wayne Gordon: We are all together and need each other. Don’t run away because you disagree with something someone says.

As can be seen, there several key leaders in Christian community development who spoke at the CCDA. The words that I quoted are only very small snippets of the broader conference.

If you want to actually listen to some of these talks, you can go to TechMission’s website and listen to talks from past CCDA conferences. The talks from this past October have not been added yet, but soon will be.