Fundraising Lessons from a Year of Tragedy
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
One year ago today, an earthquake in the Indian Ocean set off a tsunami that swept for thousands of miles and claimed well over 100,000 lives in countries from Indonesia to Tanzania. Over the 12 months that followed, there would be two more enormous natural disasters. We witnessed destruction on a scale beyond what we'd seen before from Hurricane Katrina in August and also from the earthquake in Pakistan in October. After this year of three extraordinary disasters, we wondered what do we now know that we didn't know 12 months ago about natural disasters? What did we learn about the best way to respond? Well, we're going to look at these three disasters together from a variety of angles. First, fund-raising: getting enough donations to meet the needs of the thousands and thousands of people who were affected. And to discuss that, we're joined by Gene Tempel, who is executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
Welcome, Mr. Tempel.
Mr. GENE TEMPEL (Executive Director, Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University): Good afternoon.
SIEGEL: And what would you say people expect now when they make donations for disaster relief that perhaps they didn't expect a year ago?
Mr. TEMPEL: Well, I think the expectation is that organizations will respond fairly quickly with information about how the contributions are being used. The outpouring of support is fairly quick and the donors also expect a fairly quick response in terms of accountability.
SIEGEL: There was a lot of anecdotal information during this past year that these disasters sucked money away from other philanthropies and charities. Is that true? Is it sort of a zero sum game, that if money goes for these causes it doesn't go for other things?
Mr. TEMPEL: We don't think that is the case. Typically in these disasters like this, most of the contributions are small contributions and we really don't find any information that substantiates the notion that this is a zero sum game.
SIEGEL: A lot of money was raised very, very quickly for tsunami relief and also for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Not so much for the earthquake in Pakistan. What does that tell us about raising money for disasters overseas?
Mr. TEMPEL: Well, the response is greatest to disasters that occur near your home. Tsunami was an exception to that and most of us think that that was probably because the disaster was so large scale and there was continued reporting on it. The other thing, you know, that most people think is that it came right during a time when we had attention available because we weren't working perhaps between Christmas and New Year's and that probably drove that response larger than any other. But if you look at typical US responses to foreign disasters, the responses now available to the earthquake victims really is fairly large compared to what it has been to other events like this.
SIEGEL: Gene Tempel, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. TEMPEL: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: Well, now emergency housing. Thousands and thousands of people who survived the tsunami, the earthquake and the Gulf Coast hurricanes needed emergency shelter. Mary Comerio is the author of the book "Disaster Hits Home: New Policy for Urban Housing Recovery." She's in our San Francisco bureau.
Welcome to the program, Professor Comerio.
Professor MARY COMERIO (University of California, Berkeley): How do you do?
SIEGEL: Is there something about emergency housing that we learned from all three of these disasters?
Prof. COMERIO: Well, the three events in the last year--the tsunami, the hurricane, the earthquake--have really demonstrated that agencies such as FEMA in the United States or the international aid agencies--the Red Cross, the UN, the World Bank--have not really planned for the kinds of catastrophic losses we have experienced. It's really time to include these high-loss disasters in our planning scenarios and to develop options for mass housing, for sheltering and for housing recovery. It hasn't been the norm in the way we've planned.
SIEGEL: And what about the move from temporary housing to permanent housing? That's a process that's still going on a year out in the places that were hardest hit by the tsunami and of course we hear about in the Gulf Coast and in Pakistan in recent days as well.
Prof. COMERIO: Yes, it's true, and it really does take much longer than we would expect. In Mexico City, people lived in tin shelters in the middle of the streets for more than two years after a large earthquake. In Culbay(ph), people lived in shelters for up to 10 years. So it is not unexpected when you lose 400,000 housing units to have a long transition period.
SIEGEL: Well, if we have to assume such long stays in temporary shelter, should we be thinking in terms of entirely new kinds of construction for those temporary shelters?
Prof. COMERIO: Yes, we should. I think--we have looked at how do you create temporary housing that is ultimately permanent. So you have to think about the way you do that kind of construction and the way you design it and, most importantly, where you put it. One would want to put it not in the public right of way or not in a park because even the temporary shelters on those sites will be long term.
SIEGEL: Mary Comerio, professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. Thank you very much for talking with us.
Prof. COMERIO: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Well now another dimension of this great year of natural disasters. The US military was called in to provide help after all three. And that's the area of expertise of Christine Wormuth, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.
Welcome to the program.
Ms. CHRISTINE WORMUTH (Center for Strategic and International Studies): Thank you. Glad to be here.
SIEGEL: In foreign disasters, like the earthquake and the tsunami, it's the regular military, the Army and all the rest that are doing the job. But in Hurricane Katrina, in domestic disasters the National Guard has a big role. There was a lot of talk that the regular Army should be more domestically involved after Katrina. Is that something that the military is taking seriously or are they terrified of the thought of being a primary responder to hurricanes in this country.
Ms. WORMUTH: Certainly the Pentagon is looking carefully at that issue. I think it's fair to say informally that the active military doesn't see disaster relief as their clear role. And frankly, the National Guard is well suited for that role here in the United States.
SIEGEL: There's a very specific expertise that the military has. Perhaps it's seeping out gradually all the time. But that is imaging, surveillance, being able to get a satellite's eye view of what's happening on the ground. How did the military do in that regard over these three disasters?
Ms. WORMUTH: I think it's fair to say--I can't speak to the Tsunami, but in Katrina the military didn't have a very detailed surveillance plan and that was part of the reason why we didn't have a great sense of how bad the damage was across the whole Gulf Coast. They learned that this was a shortfall and so when the Pakistani earthquake occurred, we were much more able to use our space assets and help the Pakistanis see what needed to be done and where.
SIEGEL: So we could have known perhaps a critical 24 hours earlier along the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans that there are lots and lots of neighborhoods that have been devastated by this and there are houses underwater at a time when people still might have been a bit hopeful about how they were coping with the storm?
Ms. WORMUTH: That's right. Potentially, we could've seen more both in the immediate aftermath but even a few days later after the levees broke, to see just how bad the damage was.
SIEGEL: Christine Wormuth of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, thank you very much for talking with us.
Ms. WORMUTH: Thank you.
SIEGEL: We also heard from Mary Comerio, the author of the book "Disaster Hits Home"--she's a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley--and Gene Tempel, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, all of them talking about lessons learned from the extraordinary natural disasters of the past year.
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