On the Vancouver CBC morning program hosted by Rick Cluff today (20 Nov 2013) there was a discussion on what to look for in an aid organization helping now in relief activities. A representative from the excellent Canadian ‘Charities Watch’ organization gave three criteria. They could have taken directly from Rose Charities and were as follows
1) Local network: Look for organizations with local involvments and networks prior to the crisis. Rose Charities was founded for work in S.E. Asia. Contacts and local networks within the Philippines have been present for years, especially through Rose Charities Director Dr Collin Yong, who has carried out multiple medical missions there prior to the crisis and has many local contacts. Within days of the current crisis occurring food was being delivered (while the media in Vancouver were continuing to discuss that ‘food was not getting through’ in north Negros Island, one of the worst hit areas, organized by Rose partners in the North Bacolod Rotary Club. . In addition local networking in S.E.Asia resulted in a hugely generous donation by an Indonesian Alternative Community Technology organization (Kopernik) of 100 large water filtration units which were directly send to the area. Now, Dr Yong himself is there working again with local counterparts, on a combined Rose Charities / Bacolod Rotary Medical missions, travelling by boat to the many outlying islands which to date have been almost untouched by assistance.
2) Experience: Look for organizations with experience in a specific area; Rose Charities volunteers have huge experience in overseas assistance. The whole organization was founded predominantly by field workers disillusioned with the waste, inefficiency and sadly, often frank dishonesty in the ‘aid industry;’ Rose Charities Canada’s volunteers include nurses, doctors, and other health professionals, engineers, accountants, financial managers, lawyers etc. Members from all walks of life and the majority with experience of work overseas in the whole spectrum of activities from immediate emergency to long term. Rose Charities is particularly strong with medical and health care, especially paediatric as many of its members work in this field, several a with the B.C. Children’s Hospital. Unlike some other organizations the organizers of Rose Charities see little demarcation as to what constitutes emergency relief. Millions of children and adults dying from treatable disease, poverty, conflict is equally an emergency to natural environmental disaster. The aim of Rose Charities is simply to help all to whatever degree it is able.
3) Look for track record. Look for organizations with a good track record in humanitarian relief: Rose Charities has a noteworthy track record in humanitarian assistance. These include assistance to Sri Lanka and Indonesia (Tsunami 2004), Pakistan (Earthquake Kashmir 2005), Hurricane Katrina USA 2005, Indonesia Volcano 2009), Sichuan Earthquake and Myanmar typhoon 2008, Haiti Earthquake 2010 Japan Tohoku Tsunami 2011, Pakistan flood 2012. The common denominator with Rose involvement has been policy of immediately, on the disaster occurring, activating, linking, co-ordinating, or finding local networks which can be supported to provide immediate assistance. This policy allows also the flexibility which can ensure assistance can actually get to areas which may be politically or logistically difficult for other organizations. Only secondarily, and if requested, suggested by the local counterpart is a team directly sent. Where teams have been sent however it has been with the policy of not simply rushing in and out in a matter of months, but staying, funding permitting to help the long-term rebuilding of the area. In Sri Lanka 2005 for example, in the weeks after the tsunami there were dozens of organizations who arrived after Rose Charities team to work in the same area. However, 6 month later around 80 percent of them had departed, a year almost all of them and now, 10 years later Rose remains the only one. In the 10 years however, multiple community support programs have been carried out, including education, medical, poverty reduction etc. In Haiti, program support continues in the area of paediatric nursing training (the nursing training facilities having been destroyed by the earthquake). In Tohoku, work continues through close partners AMDA Japan and the medical center this group has established.
The ‘Charities Watch’ criteria fit Rose exactly. However Rose Charities organizers would add two more
4) Length of mission. As discussed above, many organizations seem to rush in (often with great expense ) distribute a lot of materials (much of which often is not needed, cannot get to the area through logistics difficulties etc. ) stay for a short while then depart very quickly. This can result in actually generating more hardship when supplies and medical services which the community start to depend on, are simply cut off again. Rose Charities aims wherever possible to ‘stay the course’ and help communities rebuild. Two years after the 2004 Asian Tsuanmi, there were still people in some areas living in tents. The effects of disaster don’t just to away in a few months.
5) Cost effectiveness. In Sri Lanka 2005 whole hotel floors were being hired by organizations in Colombo. Huge amounts were spent on logistics, salaries of ‘experts’, special transport (rented aircraft etc.). Rose Charities volunteers, are just that, volunteers. They are unpaid donating their time and expertise. While some airfares and some living costs (at local cost levels) are paid for rapid emergency missions, in general Rose Charities operations they are not (volunteers pay their own). Admin. costs are minimal. There are some bank transfer charges, and some low bookkeeping costs (though other accounting is generously donated). In short, Rose Charities is incredibly cost effective. It is no exaggeration, and easily demonstrable that Rose Charities has achieved in emergency situations an equivalent or more than many other organizations spending 10 or 20 times more
6) Credibility There are many ways to convey information and it is natural for all organizations to want to put the best light on their work possible. However sometimes this means that the information is presented about what is actually being carried out in the field may not correlate with reality. This is not necessarily deliberate, it can be hard for information to get back through various channels and way-stations and remain in its natural form. In addition there is great pressure to ‘get first’ on air and put over a good picture. There are no simple ways to know whether what is being said is really true or not but it is a very good idea to ask questions where possible. Rose Charities tries to get publicity too, because it does help to promote our work and elicit donations. In Rose however if we are assisting an emergency we know that (as outlined above) we already have our delivery mechanism in the field with a local network, so that whatever donors kindly give, big or small, will be fed directly into that mechanism to be implemented cost-effectively, where it is needed.