Learning from schoolchildren

Brian
Brian Jones
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Younger Boy and the other 600 students at his school enjoyed a doubly long recess one day this week, as a reward for meeting the school's goal of raising $1,000 to help earthquake victims in Haiti.

The kids, and their parents, far surpassed their goal. They brought in $3,448.49, which will be donated to the Red Cross.

Younger Boy and the other 600 students at his school enjoyed a doubly long recess one day this week, as a reward for meeting the school's goal of raising $1,000 to help earthquake victims in Haiti.

The kids, and their parents, far surpassed their goal. They brought in $3,448.49, which will be donated to the Red Cross.

At Older Boy's school, they're aiming to raise $5,000 for World Vision's relief work in Haiti. It's likely they'll meet it, and more, if the result at Younger Boy's school is any indication.

Multiply these efforts by hundreds, or even thousands, and Canadian schoolchildren could easily raise several million dollars for Haiti, especially if their contributions are matched by the federal government.

Across the country, there must be countless dinner table and classroom discussions about the importance of helping others in need. This youthful generosity, idealism and innocence is wonderful - and is in stark contrast to some of the uglier facets of international aid.

Disappearing funds

Some time ago, a news report said hundreds of millions of dollars that had been contributed to help victims of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia had not been spent, even several years after the disaster.

Millions more aid dollars could not be accounted for. You would think that when people donate money for emergency aid, it would be spent forthwith to help people. That is the very definition of "emergency."

A man was quoted on the news last week, urging people to donate "to a charity you trust."

How's that again? A charity we trust? Shouldn't "charity" and "trust" automatically go together?

Apparently not, in today's world of fraud, greed, lies and theft.

The kids can probably be assured that World Vision and the Red Cross - and plenty of other aid groups - will put their donations to good use.

Right route

But the thought crossed my mind, "I hope not a cent of this gets channelled through the Haitian government."

It is an unsettling image: Newfoundland children eagerly bring money to school; corrupt Haitian bureaucrats open the envelopes.

Haiti's president held a news conference in his makeshift office this week. According to Agence France Presse, Rene Preval assured people making donations to relief groups that their money would not pass through the hands of Haitian officials. That's a fairly blunt admission of corruption in Haiti's government.

Social injustice

Amid all the death, destruction and international efforts to help, life in some wealthy neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince hasn't changed much, according to a recent item in The Globe and Mail.

Residents' houses, which were properly built, did not collapse.

People are continuing their daily routine, even going shopping in upscale stores, which are also still standing, while in other parts of the city homeless, hungry and injured earthquake victims try to stay alive.

The report described Haiti as a "kleptocracy," where a small upper class holds the vast majority of the country's wealth.

If you need numbers, they're easy to find. Do a Google search of "distribution of wealth in Haiti," and a vast array of horrific statistics comes up.

It is commonly cited that one per cent of Haitians own about 50 per cent of the country's land and money.

The idea of rebuilding Haiti will have to be expanded. Reconstructing the houses, hospitals, roads, bridges and so on is a good and necessary start, but some sort of social justice should be forced upon Haiti's upper class.

Of course, even in the U.S. and Canada - two of the most generous donating countries - there isn't an over-abundance of social justice.

Maybe we could all learn some lessons from our schoolchildren.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by e-mail at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Red Cross, World Vision, Agence France Presse Globe and Mail Google The Telegram

Geographic location: Haiti, Indonesia, Newfoundland Port-au-Prince U.S. Canada

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  • Politically Incorrect
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    '...some sort of social justice should be forced on Haiti's upper class?' Well, the lower classes did elect the progress Jean Bertrand Aristide, who rejected demands to adopt the IMF manifesto to privitize Haitian industries and open the country up to free trade. He was summarly removed by a US, Canadian, and French backed coup that worked to ensure the dominance of the Haitian ruling class. As a result, the rural people were forced into the cities; Haiti, once self-dependent for rice, now has to import it from the US; its state concrete and flower mills (among other natioinal interests) were sold to American interests which closed them down. There is absolutely no interest on the part of the so-called doner states to restore real democracy as it provides few benefits to Wall Street.

  • Politically Incorrect
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    '...some sort of social justice should be forced on Haiti's upper class?' Well, the lower classes did elect the progress Jean Bertrand Aristide, who rejected demands to adopt the IMF manifesto to privitize Haitian industries and open the country up to free trade. He was summarly removed by a US, Canadian, and French backed coup that worked to ensure the dominance of the Haitian ruling class. As a result, the rural people were forced into the cities; Haiti, once self-dependent for rice, now has to import it from the US; its state concrete and flower mills (among other natioinal interests) were sold to American interests which closed them down. There is absolutely no interest on the part of the so-called doner states to restore real democracy as it provides few benefits to Wall Street.