A couple of days ago, someone sent a proposal to a mailing list entitled "Sidr cyclone compensation fund". "What do people think of the following idea? Set up a fund, funded totally by expatriates, to pay cash compensation to families of the deceased? If we set a scale - 5,000 taka (£35) for each adult and 2,500 taka (£17.50) for each child." The fundraising target was set at $275,000 (£133,000), to be raised through global appeals.* Aid and Brand recognition: US also creates some brand awareness in a muslim country.
Other people replied almost immediately. Some were uncomfortable with placing a price on the victims. "Your suggestion is crude," wrote one. "How do we know whether the victims' families are the ones most in need?" Another person responded: "Can we give the money to the women of the household? Less chances of the money being spent on hooch and gambling."
The fund was set up by the following morning. A name was found (United Bangladesh Appeal); $100,000 has already been pledged.
* A thanksgiving toast from Bangladesh: A CNN journalist remembers what thanksgiving is all about.
* LSU helps Bangladesh save lives with storm surge models.
* Report in a Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.no
* Photo Essay- Cyclone Sidr: Bramwell Ryan, a Canadian Salvationist journalist working in Bangladesh posts a 5:17 photo documentary in the rubicon. Look for more of Ryan's reports from the Slavation army International site.
* After cyclone, Bangladesh faces political storm: soaring food price is another disaster the government faces.
More aid intiatives:
* Shawn of the Uncultured Project is live-blogging his aid initiatives from the disaster ground.
* Pics, videos, posters, fliers and list of charities for Sidr victims.
* Mikey Leung, a Canadian expat living in Bangladesh: Cyclone Sidr devastates Bangladesh, please help
* A cyclonic perspective from Ashley Wheaton, an expat working in the clothing industry who looks at what poverty means in Bangladesh:
Living in a country like Bangladesh constantly forces me to redraw the lines around my mental conception of poverty. A factory worker seems hard done by until you meet the construction worker. The construction worker earns your sympathy until you see the child collecting trash. The child is then outdone by a disabled beggar... When I was not immersed in this reality it was easy to treat them all as poor, to condemn all of the conditions they faced as equally bad. But in reality the poverty here is extremely complex and it isn't realistic or meaningful to treat each person's poverty as if it were the same.
So what does one do? How does one wrap their head around it all? That's the tough part. I'm still working on it, and a long way from finding any answers I'm afraid. I constantly question and constantly fail to come to a clear conclusion. It's frustrating, but perhaps it is best not to try to pack these predicaments into neat little boxes.
I also face this confusion in my current job. I work for a textile company. We exist because labour here is cheap, because people are willing to work long hours in factories to earn their living. We do not pay them what you or I would want them to be paid. We cannot. If we did we would go out of business and everyone would lose. We try our best to improve, to make things better, to reach lofty goals, but it's not easy. The market and the global economy are against us. I find it frustrating, and yet I also find it rewarding to know that the people I am working to help are not carrying bricks on their heads and their children are not collecting garbage. Is that enough? Of course not. Is it something? Yes, it's something. And hopefully there is much more to come.