Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Why are refugee organizations fundraising for Japan?

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 4, 2011

I see that some of the national refugee resettlement organizations are using the Japanese earthquake and nuclear crises as an opportunity to bolster their operating budgets. Church World Service (CWS) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are two refugee organizations that are ostensibly raising funds for Japan. Yet, why would Japan, one of the wealthiest countries on earth, need American funds to handle its crises? Deacon Patrick Moynihan, the president of The Haitian Project, has an Op-ed piece in the Catholic News Service about this phenomena.

Having climbed over, sifted through, and shoveled tons of refuse created by Haiti’s 7.0 earthquake and, more importantly, having seen the dead waiting for burial and the emotional and financial impact on the families who lost loved ones in the earth’s spasm on January 12th, 2010, I cannot help but feel deep sympathy for the Japanese families who received the brunt of the earth’s recent, stronger and longer disturbance. Subsequently, I am a bit uncomfortable with using the matter even tangentially to illustrate a negative point.

However, I was a bit shocked on a recent trip back to the US when I heard a radio announcement from the American Red Cross soliciting donations for Japan in the same manner as they had for Haiti. As I listened to the eerily familiar message of how I could text a $10 donation, I could not help wonder why the immense difference in the socioeconomic circumstances of the two countries seemed to have little impact on the nature of the appeal.

A quick web research revealed that the American Red Cross was not alone; all the major international relief organizations…were hard at it. …I could not fathom how Japan would require their assistance to provide emergency water and food for its people…

…I am not trying to dampen global compassion; but, I am surprised that large relief organizations are calling for funds for Japan just as they did for Haiti. Has Japan given any indication that it is unwilling or incapable of meeting the needs of its people? Wouldn’t refugee style relief services be out of place in a country with a
modern and well-funded social service program? At the very least, it is unclear why these organizations have taken upon themselves the onus of raising funds and promising services to Japan…

…I cannot help but wonder if the major international relief organizations, which have grown into mega corporations since the 60’s, have gotten a bit off track. I am not suggesting that they are seeking profits, but it is clear that they have become an industry skilled at seizing market opportunities to bolster their operating budgets. So good that I wonder if they are intentionally
using methodologies, like texting, to encourage reflexive rather than reflective giving — the way to go if you want people to give to Japan as they did to Haiti without thinking about the difference.

There is no doubt that the big relief organizations’ methods bring in the bucks. But, what about the potential long-term negative effects? Is it possible that their “seize the disaster” strategy will eventually have a numbing effect on donors? Could their new policy that every disaster is a chance to raise relief dollars and those that don’t need much will help pay for those that do backfire? Clearly, it is not good to confuse donors; it’s even worse to leave them feeling milked. Read more here

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One Response to “Why are refugee organizations fundraising for Japan?”

  1. Mary said

    Refugee “good works” has become an industry. As long as those government funds keep rolling in…

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