'Think locally' about Haiti relief

The words are so common these days that they sound almost trite: "Think globally, act locally." But when it comes to the present disaster rescue and relief efforts underway in Haiti, these words couldn't be more appropriate. If you, like me, have been anxiously wondering how best to help the suffering people of that earthquake-demolished nation, a good opportunity awaits you Thursday night at a Haiti Benefit Concert at the Historic Ashland Armory.

The region's best musicians are pulling together to put on the benefit, which has been planned and organized in a matter of days. Performers include Jeff Pevar, the Rogue Suspects, Salsa Brava, One Horse Shy, Smoky Red, Annie McIntyre and more. Organizers are donating the proceeds to the American Red Cross, and Red Cross officials have committed that 100 percent of those donations will go to support Haiti Relief. Organizers are recommending a $10-20 sliding scale for entry to the event. I say give more if you can.

Raising and donating money is by far the best thing most of us can do in these situations. Sending surplus medicines or other supplies is often counter-productive and, unless you are a registered nurse, an orthopedic surgeon or a specialist in urban rescue, most volunteers just get in the way in such emergencies. What's badly needed by those agencies that specialize in providing emergency aid and medium- and long-term relief and reconstruction support is funding to continue their work. While the American Red Cross and its international and in-country sister agencies are not perfect, they have the most experience in these cases and they clearly have learned by their mistakes during the Katrina and other recent disasters.

Other agencies worth supporting for southern Oregonians are the Salvation Army, which does amazing work on the ground around the world, and Portland-based Mercy Corps, which in the past 20 years has become one of the best organized and most effective relief agencies working in dozens of countries. (For a comprehensive list of aid agencies, go to www.networkforgood.org/).

Why give? Why care? If you ask those questions, it's likely that this benefit is not for you. But if you do care, and you care to give, come join your friends and neighbors Thursday at the Ashland Armory. Work is being done by volunteers, and the venue has been generously donated by owner Alan DeBoer (thanks, Alan).

Twenty-five years ago this September I watched rescuers pull survivors from under the rubble of buildings in Mexico City, where a massive earthquake killed 10,000 and left 100,000 or so homeless. It was the worst earthquake in Latin America since the one in 1970 that had struck Peru and killed more than 65,000 people. The disaster in Haiti far outreaches those two.

In 1985, the rescue effort in Mexico City lasted through many terrible days, as it will in Haiti. Relief and reconstruction went on for months and, in Haiti this time, will undoubtedly go on for years.

It's been more than a week now since the quake in Port-au-Prince, and there likely are few if any survivors left trapped in the rubble, given the heat and other conditions there. Perhaps there will be a miracle or two. We can hope so. In Mexico, up to 10 days after the quake newborn babies were pulled alive from under what had been a maternity hospital. Some of them survived, and some have thrived, with the help of international donors and an amazing team of doctors, nurses and social workers.

Next week I'll be in Mexico City interviewing some of those "miracle babies." They are now 24 years old, and I am pretty sure at this point that each of them, looking back on their own experiences as victims and survivors, will say, "Give to Haiti." It is the least, and the most, we can do.

John Enders of Ashland has been a journalist for most of the past 30 years. He specializes in covering Latin America and can be reached at www.johnenders.com

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