World Concern


Joy in Africa: Are humanitarian groups doing the media’s job overseas? | 

There was a flurry of stories within the last week or so about the world’s newest nation, South Sudan, a nation with a tortured past and a future full of promise, uncertainty and plenty of lhumanitarian needs.

Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps' Joy Portella at South Sudan Independence Day

Joy Portella with Mercy Corps‘ Seattle office was there in the new South Sudanese capitol city of Juba, sent by the Northwest-based humanitarian group to witness and report on the new nation’s declaration of independence.

Portella travels a lot and reported out of the new South Sudan capitol city of Juba, including doing this article for the Seattle Times. Portella says pretty much the same thing on one of her earlier blog posts for Mercy Corps, ending with this concluding paragraph:

South Sudan will soon start the hard work of building a nation from the ground up in the face of challenges such as extreme poverty and lack of access to almost everything – roads, education, medical care, electricity – the list goes on. But today was a day to put those concerns aside to celebrate and imagine the possible. After decades of war and sacrifice, the South Sudanese have certainly earned their celebration.

Chris Sheach of World Concern, also from Seattle (okay, well Shoreline) was also in Juba reporting on this historic event for organization. One post from Sheach focused on Sudan’s educational needs and mentions some of the work World Concern is doing on this front: Continue reading

Two views on disaster relief in Japan | 

Flickr, jchong

More than a month after the disastrous earthquake and tsunami that struck northeast Japan, experts are still analyzing the cataclysmic event and coming to startling conclusions — such as the recent announcement the tsunami was more than 120 feet high in at least one location.

Another surprising observation made early on by some aid experts was that, despite the size and scope of the tragedy, Japan didn’t want or need disaster relief assistance.

Some aid watchdog organizations, like GiveWell, have consistently recommended against donating to the relief effort — and specifically questioned a $1 million Gates Foundation grant to Mercy Corps for Japan relief work.

Throughout the crisis, the Japanese government had asked that private, outside relief organizations stay away because of the pressure outsiders put on the already strained infrastructure and resources.

Some did, some didn’t. But many did actively solicit funds to assist Japan.

One aid worker who wrote a post for Humanosphere anonymously called the fund-raising done by many aid groups an “ugly game” because it was unlikely the money would be needed in Japan, the third wealthiest nation in the world.

Others said it may have been misleading, but it was a legitimate opportunity to raise funds that could be used elsewhere to help those in crises given less media attention.

Japan did seek and receive assistance from governments, the U.S. military and the International Red Cross. But it’s still not clear to what extent private relief organizations have been able to assist.

Here are two views.

One is from Joy Portella of Mercy Corps, which did offer active assistance in Japan. Portella says:

If you had asked me two months ago if Mercy Corps – which normally works in impoverished places like Afghanistan, Somalia and North Korea – would ever respond to an earthquake in Japan, I would have said “no way.” That was before this incredibly unusual event, and before I saw Japan’s devastation and need with my own eyes.

Another view is offered by Derek Sciba of World Concern. The organization decided early on not to try to offer direct assistance in Japan. Sciba says:

World Concern’s mission is to serve the poorest of the poor in developing countries – those who have no means of responding themselves, or rebuilding their lives. Because of this, we have elected to not mount a direct response in Japan – or to solicit funds on a large scale. It was a decision that we did not take lightly, but it has to do with who World Concern is called to serve.

You can read their full perspectives below. Continue reading