Our hearts are in the right place, but our stuff doesn’t belong in disaster areas

Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the publisher of the newspaper where I was working asked me to write an article about the relief efforts of a group he was heavily involved in.

I made a few calls, learned about the group’s disaster relief kits, which included a number of items that I wondered if they could be sourced from a business closer to Haiti, if not within the country. Years later, I read articles about some developing countries in Africa issuing bans on used clothing imports from relief organizations, with hopes of stimulating the local clothing economy. All of those hand-me-downs sent to poor countries may have put (very used) shirts and pants on children, but they also prevented the economy from developing a local clothing industry that might do more to bring those children’s families out of poverty than a box of unwanted t-shirts. 

And then last week, I talked with volunteers at local organizations – and people who had been involved in relief work elsewhere – who pointed out the pointlessness of some of the donations that were being sent to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Yes, tens of thousands of Houston residents were displaced from their homes, all of their belongings destroyed in the mud and muck that followed the torrential rains. But what those folks didn’t need was someone’s used prom dress or winter coat. (Don’t believe me? Take it from someone who is on the ground in Houston, sorting through the clothes that are arriving: https://angeliagriffin.wordpress.com/2017/08/31/the-wrong-donations-some...)

Read more in the Sept. 13 edition.