I ordinarily would agree with people who argue that donations should be made directly to the Red Cross or other well established, 'official' channels. It is their job and they are (or at least should be) well versed in any type of emergency response. But I also understand people's distrust in Bosnia and Herzegovina as there have been many deviations in the not-so-distant past and I have already experienced them in the field in recent days. The organization of the response by mandated institutions to this crisis by most accounts is, at best, piss poor.
Although I'm flattered by your trust and confidence, I am personally hesitant to take anyone's money...and that's why I am not setting up any personal accounts or gofundme or whatever the hell they're called. At this point in time it's a distraction from the monumental task at hand and what I feel most comfortable - and motivated - to do, which is to be in the field.
I posted the Terra Dinarica bank information yesterday and I am most comfortable working through that channel. Don't forget though...there are many good organizations doing great work. So keep your eyes and ears peeled for who are doing the right thing. I know it's hard to decipher who are the most efficient and honest brokers but trust me, they are out there. I'll do the same.
For those of you itching to pitch in...dream with me here for a moment. Sanida Hasanović Čar helped rekindle this idea for me with her initiative to help the kindergarten in Maglaj (which we will be visiting today). We did something similar to this in Albania and Kosovo during the conflict in 1999 with Save the Children. It was an exceptionally powerful tool. Safe zones for children. Listen.
After the assessments and whirlwind tours of delivering aid in the coming days and weeks, the reality of the calamity that just happened is going to set in and it will set in hard. Many kindergartens that I helped establish in Bosnia with Save the Children in the late 90's have been completely destroyed. But the structure and organization of them is not. The idea is to get kids in a 'normal, familiar, and safe' environment as soon as possible. Call it front line intervention if you will. This allows the parents and indeed the whole community to deal with the challenges and heartache of cleaning and rebuilding knowing that their children are well looked after and happy. It also helps them deal with the trauma of their experience.
Again, the impact we can have as a small group of wanna be well-doers will not save the world, but it can make a real and meaningful difference to a handful of communities that we can help rather quickly. I have already been in touch with the leaders of the kindergartens that we trained and equipped back in the day. I am getting a full report with photos from them in the coming days.
There are several phases to this process, obviously. The first being cleaning and sanitizing the play spaces and getting public health officials/experts to inspect the safety and give the green light to move back in. This too can be done rather quickly in some places, although not all. Phase two is equipping the spaces with new mattresses, carpets, kitchen facilities, toys, books, desks, and everything nice. That's where you come in. The third is the easiest, bringing the kids back to their play spaces.
In short...as the dust clears I think this is a noble way to donate your money and have a direct impact on the affected communities. The networks are all in place. We know where the kindergartens are. And it can be done fairly rapidly in many places. Same deal, little or no overhead. Complete transparency. No bull shit.
I will always be frank and up front with the many people who have reached out through cyber space and beyond. I am moved by your compassion more than I could possibly explain in this therapeutic blog of mine (my therapy, of course). I can promise you this. I will keep running around like a madman trying to get good information to you quickly. We will continue, as long as we can, to move aid to isolated affected areas. But I think that the safe zone is a splendid way to chip in and, perhaps most importantly, it's something I KNOW we have the capacity to do and to do well.
Expectations of the people involved in the aid efforts are high...and we are all stretched thin. What I want to make sure of, from our little corner of this crisis, is that we deliver what we say will. Again peeps, thank you for the outpour of support. We'll keep on truckin'....I'm just trying to keep it real with y'all.
Tell me what you think...