If you’re wondering what to do about the Indian Ocean tsunami, here is some advice I trust from my friend Vicki Robin of the New Road Map Foundation and Conversation Cafe: make a donation to the Sri Lankan grassroots development movement Sarvodaya. (Back when I studied such things — a dozen or more years ago — I regarded the organization as among the best in Asia.)
Vicki passes along a note from a friend of hers named Sharif Abdulla:
Give money directly to Sarvodaya, the organization I have been working with for many years. As you may know, while the international donor organizations provide much-needed material assistance, they rely on organizations like Sarvodaya to actually distribute this aid to the people who need it. The list of organizations that rely on Sarvodaya’s thousands of volunteers reads like a who’s who of the development world. I have seen Sarvodaya workers distributing aid from UNICEF to poor villagers in a village that the Sri Lankan government didn’t even know existed. And, most importantly, Sarvodaya delivers assistance in Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and Christian communities.
Another reason to give directly to Sarvodaya: of all the countries hit by the quake and tsunami, Sri Lanka is the most impacted. Countries like India and Thailand have significant internal resources to draw upon. Sri Lanka has virtually none. Giving to Sarvodaya ensures that the money will go where it is most needed.
Send a check to: Sarvodaya USA, 5716 Manchester Avenue #3, Los Angeles, CA 90045.
You also can’t go wrong with Mercy Corps, a large, Portland-based international development organization.