Donate what really matters | Trilce Encarnación | TEDxSantoDomingo



hello today I'm gonna tell you a story about solidarity and generosity of a human spirit the story that I'm gonna tell you this particular one started in 2010 in January it was a regular Tuesday we were just getting over the holidays people were you know kids were still playing with their toys and we were trying to lose the weight we gained and on that Tuesday afternoon as we were heading most of us were heading back home from work an earthquake happened in the island in our side in Santo Domingo it was nothing more than a big scare however our neighbors in Haiti fared much much worse the city of port-au-prince was completely destroyed and soon we were getting the figures of the devastation hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes tens of thousands of people had died after the disaster very soon after the international media descended in the city news outlets from all over the world were relaying images of the devastation and of the need of that vulnerable population how they were facing so many struggles to survive this disaster the news media after relaying those images they made the population that was at home like me like you guys probably some of you might have inter Haiti we wanted to do something we wanted to help a lot of people decided to donate collection centers were set up all over the country all over the world schools became collection centers churches offices malls everywhere you went people were collecting things for Haiti things from canned goods clothing etc this process is a familiar one that happens after disasters it's called material convergence however it is not a happy story the story of generosity and solidarity becomes a tragedy the influx of large amount of donations into a disaster area I routinely called by disaster responders as a second tier disaster in 1957 social scientists first documented the issue and since then a little bit of research has been done not too much but we have been able to witness the phenomenon happening over and over again in disaster I am part of a research group that routinely business disaster areas and we have seen it in the Gulf Coast after Katrina we saw it in Haiti after the earthquake we saw it in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami we saw it in New Jersey after sandy last year I was able to see it in Houston after the floods brought in by Harvey our research shows that over 60% of the supplies that are received after a disaster are non-priority what does that mean non-priority it means they should have been in the disaster area in the first place it means they have there are no use to the response and are actually a hindrance to the process how are they a hindrance is it a bad as I say it is I mean I see people and they don't believe me well I'm gonna try to tell you the journey of the supplies and I'm gonna try to tell you how they obstruct the response first when the disaster happens all those supplies need to be transported to the area so they're competing for the same planes trucks boats that other more high priority goods are gonna use to reach that area the impact then reach the entry points border crossings ports airports the handful of highways that reach the area those highways get congested with all the flows that are getting there so this the same transportation capacity an infrastructure that is transporting doctors first responders medication and other high-priority goods are competing with the sundries of donations that arrive from toys clothes etc once they reach the entry points and they're able to go inside to the disaster area it gets I could say worse if it's not already there's usually a couple of ways that they could go the trucks can go to a local organization mostly inexperienced organizations receive all donations that come their way until their storage capacity is filled once that happens they either store it wherever they can or send it along to another organization others they don't know where they're gonna drop off their things so they drop them off in the street I've seen both cases after Harvey I saw how don't donated clothes travel from one church to the next because they were really of no use there were just a lot of clothes that were not gonna be used for abuse to the survivors in other cases they're just dumped in the street and you know you don't believe me but here's the picture those clothes were dumped in the streets of Haiti those were donated clothes that was just dumped there because nobody would take them what happens to those clothes they become vectors for disease a couple of rains and they're rotting and that happens over and over again another example I have of just how inefficient these supplies can be is this example from Japan through a donation campaign people donated clothing from all over the world to the survivors of the hurricane of the earthquake what happened was in the end roughly 9,000 items of clothing cost over eighty thousand dollars to ship and I'm not counting how much the clothing cost I'm only have the shipping cost if we use those shipping costs to purchase the items in Japan in the local economy we could have purchased four times as much so it's definitely not as efficient as it should be it could be and now you're thinking well those are clothes that's not really priority what about water what about medicine those are definitely things that are needed perhaps even food people need food well even those Goods when they arrive in such quantity that they meet the demand of the surviving population as soon as they meet that demand they become non-priority when we have enough we don't need more I'm gonna tell you what happened in Indonesia after the tsunami in 2004 four tons of drugs arrived in the island for a population of 2 million people that gives us about 2 kilograms 4 pounds for people that surpasses the consumption rate for years in the end medications that we're about to expire medications that were not appropriate for the population cause the government of Indonesia six billion dollars to disposal so the story that I've been telling about generosity about solidarity it's a tragic one in my research I've been trying to figure out why people donate things and not cash because I do believe cash is the best thing that you can donate after a disaster I've interviewed people and I've conducted survey surveys and I've gained some insights as to why people prefer to donate things one of them is that 40% of donors that have a personal connection to the disaster area I feel that donating things makes them more connected they feel affinity with the population so they want to do something that takes some effort on their part other reasons to donate things sometimes are not so clear or not based in truths 50 percent believe that survivors have lost everything so they need everything well that's partially true you know they do need mostly everything however sending a dining room set from Atlanta to Texas is not the best way to go to give them what they need and I know this has been done because I had to unload it while I was in Texas so I had to unload the dining room set so you know the money that the donors spent in renting the truck and getting the dining room set there could have been put to better use for the survivors to buy the things they actually needed in the local mark kids and started getting their communities back on track other reasons 35 percent believe that disaster responders will find something useful to do with the donations that one is simply not true I mean disaster responders are pretty busy after a disaster there's just not that many of them to handle all that's coming their way here's a picture in Japan Convention Center after the earthquake a quarter of the personnel there was handling clothing clothing donations of clothing and you would think well there's a lot of people there they're probably sorting it by size they're probably you know making it so that people can come and get it well the amount of clothing that was arriving there did not allow for any of that they were putting it in bags to get it to the trash so yeah everybody's gloomy this is not like the story you were expecting everybody is a little sad right now bad news I know it's not all bad news we can still help like I said we can still donate cash after a disaster our cash will help the local economy and we'll even if you donate it to a large organization that is not going to use it right away it's gonna probably help to the next disaster to the logistics to being ready to that next one but I see some skin skeptics yeah yeah I see them you think I mean you don't know where your where your money is gonna end up I understand I mean even after I told you that the things you sent don't reach the survivors you're still thinking maybe my money is not gonna reach the survivors well in this case us as donors this a job that we need to do and is we need to find that organization that we're gonna trust I can I can give you an example collaborative aid networks networks that are built for other purposes such as service your social de gracias they they have congregations here in Dominican Republic and in Haiti and they outperformed the relief distribution of the United Nations after the earthquake organizations such as this have the networks have presence in the area know the victims know the survivors they know what is needed and they have their resources the trucks to get them there really quickly they probably could use some of the resources and the donations that you have so we have to find those that are doing the good job and try to give our donations to them moving forward we really need to educate the donors and the media we need to let them know what happens to physical donations that diagram that I showed all the stages that they go through we really need to let people become aware that physical donations can become obstacles to the relief efforts and the media should also be made aware that the imagery that they portray frames the opinion of the people that are gonna be donating this all needs to be done in times before a disaster we also need to raise the profile of the local groups in ma in our research we found that local responders are the most trusted groups by donors so they are primed they are the ones that should be conducting the outreach campaigns in their communities and spreading the message that after a disaster please donate cash not things thank you

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