I’ve been looking around for an agency accepting Paypal donations towards the various Tsunami appeals. I suspect there’s millions locked up in Paypal balances that could be made useful if some of the big agencies (Disasters Emergency Committee in the UK, for instance) would accept them. The SEA-EAT blog (already getting a lot of attention as a clearing house for tsunami resources) links to a couple of reputable-looking agencies accepting Paypal right now but they’re local operations that won’t attract much attention. What worries me is that, if the big fund raisers don’t add Paypal giving to their web sites now, it’s inevitable that various scumbags will fill the vacuum and start to rip off gullible donors. In the meantime, the best advice is obviously not to give any money to anyone unless you’re certain they’re genuine.
Update: of course, Paypal are ahead of me and have added this useful page to their site, including plenty of agencies now accepting Paypal. I do hope they’re waiving commission on these donations.
On the Today Programme the other day Bill Clinton suggested, even before the magnitude of the Asian disaster became clear, that the big donor Nations should divide up the affected region and concentrate on assisting specific countries. This sounds like a good idea to me but what if we took the idea further and explicitly twinned affected countries with countries in the donor community. Twins could be selected on the basis of wealth and need: The US and Indonesia, Britain and Sri Lanka…
Twinning could go deeper, too. Individual regions, towns and communities could opt to twin directly. Everybody understands twinning (most British towns are already twinned with one or more others) and it might help to overcome the ‘donor fatigue’ that will surely impede the epic reconstruction that will be needed over the long term. Communities permanently connected would develop bonds of understanding. Identification is much easier when you know those you are helping and when you can understand their lives and problems.
Twinning could be very easy to organise (it would need to be – nobody is going to have time to set up committees in the blitzed coastal communities themselves) and might simply be a matter of selecting an appropriate (similarly sized, for instance) town from a web site. Developing real bonds and providing useful help would be up to the participants themselves but some central services could be provided – communications, group buying, help & support, funds handling, for instance. This is clearly not an exercise for the short term while there is so much to do but by keeping donors engaged with the affected communities for longer, it could be a powerful aid to longer term reconstruction. What do you think?