A Vague Uneasiness....
Last week, Elizabeth Stover of the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service requested that faith-based organizations submit to her some idea of their activities and accomplishments in the reconstruction of the Mississippi coast.
Yesterday, I received this email from her:
"Thanks to all for the prompt responses last week concerning faith based organizations volunteer involvement.
The information collected is only a very small sample of the enormous contributions of so many faith based, non-for-profit, service and voluntary agencies. Twenty organizations sent back their responses, and from only those 20 it was calculated that over 2,561,906 volunteer hours have been provided since days after the storm. From this sample, it was also calculated that over 14,000 projects have been worked on by volunteer labor. Of that 14,000, over 1,600 have been completed. This truly is a testament to the wonderful organizations and volunteers that have so selflessly served the coast of Mississippi."
Maybe as a Canadian I am missing something here.
I have resisted several requests for information from government sources doing "research" on the volunteer response to Hurricane Katrina. I have felt a strong intuition that much of this research is being conducted so that the American government can discover exactly how much less they will have to come to the aid of disaster survivors and their families, in light of the contribution being made by volunteers.
It seems to me that back in the early aftermath of the storm, many volunteers appeared, me included, because of a perceived default on the part of government agencies to act quickly and sufficiently enough to bring aid to places like Pearlington. I have never regretted my decision to become involved, despite the personal costs.
Perhaps it is the cynic in me, but is it possible that our contribution is now going to be factored into recovery scenarios to reduce government responsibility in future disasters? Will our willingness to assist be now taken for granted and a hole in services purposely left that we will be expected to fill? In reviewing lots of information on the issue of faith-based organizations working on this recovery, there are some who believe our motivation is to proselytize and convert potential members. Yet, I have seen hardly any of this and, in fact, only witnessed church organizations fulfilling their responsibilities to their faith by walking their talk and putting their money where their mouths are.
Will we someday be taken for granted in emergencies and then accused of only being there for selfish reasons? It seems like a double jeopardy to me that none of the organizations deserve or have earned. While I have seen some of this in other parts of the world - notably Bosnia during the war there in the 90's - I have seen none of it in Pearlington.
Your comments are invited. I know I don’t have the answers, just this vague uneasiness. Click on the "Comments" link below and post your own opinion, if you are so called. I would be interested in exploring this together.
Please be clear: I will in NO way engage the politics of this situation - that is nothing but a huge diversion. There is too much good work to do. I have often witnessed long-term dialogue about trying to find a "magic bullet" solution to these matters only, in the end, to discover that while folks were off busy doing that, NOTHING actually got done. I put my thoughts out there in light of the upcoming conference and I know that, as David Boivin has so eloquently put it: "It has nothing to do with a specific faith... just faith in humanity in general."
Our commitment to Pearlington will NOT change. We are all in it for the long haul.
"Canada Jon" White