At Franklin College, students are thrown into the act of serving unselfishly from day one.
Every year, the college adds more and more service learning courses, proven by the recent grant awarded to Franklin to create Winter Term courses to combine both service and learning in the community. We are taught from the get-go that being involved and volunteering is important.
With the recent earthquake in Nepal that registered a 7.8 magnitude, killing over 4,800 people, according to CNN, people around the world are asking what they can do to help. As Franklin College students, it should cross our minds and cause us to pause and think the same thing. But, then, many news services, including The Guardian and CNN, are spreading a different message: Don’t go to Nepal to help. Send money instead.
After the disastrous fundraising efforts to help Haiti back in 2010, why should people donate instead of going to the place to physically help the nation?
Because physical help is not what Nepal needs.
As taught in classes like Professor Alexander’s “Perspective on Philanthropy” capstone class, volunteers can be more trouble and can cost organizations more time and effort that could be used elsewhere. Nepal has a different culture, and traveling there to do what we, as Americans, think is best would not be in the best interest in a country that still reeling from destruction and a growing death toll.
Another important issue to consider about traveling immediately to Nepal is this: The international airport in Kathmandu received damage and is making it difficult for trained professionals and supplies to reach the country. The challenge groups are facing now is the airport not being able to receive all the supply planes because of the damage to the air field, according to Kipp Branch, a senior medical supply officer from Medical Assistance Programs International, in an interview with the Huffington Post.
By traveling to the country as someone who does not know the culture or without being properly trained to help, people would be taking the important landing space that could be used for necessities and supplies.
But if we can’t help directly by going to the country, who can we trust our money with?
There are many different, reputable organizations helping with the relief efforts. By educating yourself on what different organizations do and value, your donation could be put to good use in Nepal. There are organizations doing their best, but it is ultimately your decision to whom you donate. It’s okay to be cautious, but that should never deter you from researching and giving if the organization is what you believe in.
One final note: Response isn’t always fast. Remember, the international airport was damaged during the quake, and the geography of the country is mountainous. The region does not really lend itself to easy access for mountain villages.
What needs to happen is what we have learned here at Franklin: Think critically about what you can do, listen to what the people need and act.
As humans, it is important that we try to help one another. But it is also important that we help in a way that actually benefits those in need by being careful about who we donate to and what we donate.
Sometimes, as impersonal as it seems, giving money is the best way to help.