February 5, 2010

Disturbing Do-Gooding

Whenever disaster strikes, it usually is just a matter of time before the altruism turns sour and motives become questionable.  The news is abuzz with a story of a missionary in Haiti who has been arrested under suspicion of child trafficking. What I personally find most disturbing about this story is the layers of arrogance and presumption. To recap:

An Idaho based group, the New Life Children's Refuge had been working to set up Haitian and Dominican orphanages since last November. A noble mission, to be certain, until the leadership comes under a microscope.

The woman who founded the group, Laura Silsby, has a slew of legal and financial problems. Her house was foreclosed in December, she has 14 claims for unpaid wages and is scheduled to appear in court for unpaid legal debt later this month. Why someone with so many domestic problems would leave the country to rescue orphans suddenly feels suspect.

This writer's opinion is that sheer arrogance drove the mission. Why the same funds weren't spent helping expert disaster relief organizations is beyond my comprehension. When the runways and ports of this tiny island are cluttered with handfuls of do-gooders who cannot possibly be as well trained as the professionals, it screams "pompous".

Naturally, there is an inclination to want to help. The news is absolutely heartbreaking. But I wouldn't know the first thing about outfitting a rescue mission to an earthquake ravaged island in a different country. I think it's a safe assumption that neither did Laura Silsby. I will give her mission the benefit of the doubt, despite her questionable business records. I will assume her heart was in the right place, but clearly it pushed her common sense aside to make room. Unfortunately, these are the sort of stories that make headlines. Stories of do-gooding gone bad detract from truly effective relief.

Doctors without Borders has been working in Haiti for 19 years, providing ethical and impartial medical assistance in not just Haiti but nearly 60 other countries that are in need. The American Red Cross has so far spent or committed nearly $78 million to meet the most urgent needs of earthquake survivors in Haiti. Hope for Haiti has been assisting the nation for over 20 years.

Nowhere in any of these organizations' literature is there a request for an ill equipped do-gooder from Idaho with legal problems to fly into the nation and rescue 10 orphans. They ask for donations, for blood, and for professionals to apply for organized mission trips. There are so many ways to help. I hope that stories of such misguided altruism do not halt the much needed assistance through the proper channels. Even a simple click is something.

How can you help today?

Click to Help Haiti


  1. I agree, the motives of this missionary group are misguided at best.

    BTW, thank you so much for helping me promote Neon Trees. They actually did open for The Killers a couple of times.

  2. You're more than welcome, K.

    I appreciate your input on this topic, I began to worry that I had offended some of my readers when nobody commented on this post.

    While I desperately want to believe the heart was in the right place (therefore I do), I just cannot condone how it was implemented.

    I have to wonder how much more good could have been done with a less high profile good deed, something in their own backyard, even.

  3. I've seen some stuff from folks living and working in Haiti who have bitched about the "big boys" like Unicef coming in and taking over, without any regard to what the people who actually live there day in and out have to say, so they are warmer to these small groups of folks who want to help, albeit in a dumbass fashion.

    But I gotta say that I'm in agreement with you. I can't tell you how many times I've seen folks come in and divert funds away from established non-profits because they think they can "do it better." They haven't done the case studies, the extensive research, blah blah blah. They just "know better" via what, I couldn't tell you. Great organizations were started by folks frustrated with current systems (Habitat for Humanity, for instance), but before we leap, we really need to look. I think these missionaries were complete and utter morons. And quite frankly, I doubt very seriously that they would have done the same thing in an improverished nation compromised of mostly white people. But that might just be the Southerner in me. (Yanno, telling the truth.)


Thank you for joining the conversation! Your input is always valued.


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