Author Topic: Is Occupy Wall Street Outperforming the Red Cross in Hurricane Relief?  (Read 1324 times)

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Offline Riney

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Is Occupy Wall Street Outperforming the Red Cross in Hurricane Relief?
By Katherine Goldstein | Posted Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, at 2:59 PM ET


http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/blogs/the_slatest/2012/11/04/occupy_sandy_hurricane_relief_being_led_by_occupy_wall_street/1352060655964.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-large.jpg
Volunteers inside St. Jacobis Church working with Occupy Sandy's relief efforts.
Katherine Goldstein

In Sunset Park, a predominantly Mexican and Chinese neighborhood in South Brooklyn, St. Jacobi’s Church was one of the go-to hubs for people who wanted to donate food, clothing, and warm blankets or volunteer help other New Yorkers who were still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  On Saturday, Ethan Murphy, one of the people heading the kitchen operation, estimated they would prepare and send out 10,000 meals to people in need. Thousands and thousands of pounds of clothes were being sorted, labeled, and distributed, and valuable supplies like heaters and generators were being loaded up in cars to be taken out to the Rockaways, Staten Island and other places in need.  However, this well-oiled operation wasn’t organized by the Red Cross, New York Cares, or some other well-established volunteer group. This massive effort was the handiwork of none other than Occupy Wall Street—the effort is known as Occupy Sandy.

The scene at St. Jacobis on Saturday was friendly, orderly chaos.  Unlike other shelters that had stopped collecting donations or were looking for volunteers with special skills such as medical training, Occupy Sandy was ready to take anyone willing to help. A wide range of people pitched in, including a few small children making peanut butter sandwiches, but most volunteers were in their 20s and 30s. A large basement rec room had become a hive of vegetable chopping and clothes bagging. They held orientations throughout the day for new volunteers. One of the orientation leaders, Ian Horst, who has been involved with a local group called Occupy Sunset Park for the past year, says he was “totally blown away by the response” and the sheer numbers of people who showed up and wanted to help. He estimated that he’d given an orientation to 200 people in the previous hour.

By midday, a line stretched all the way down the block of people who’d already attended orientation and were waiting for rides to be dispatched to volunteer. Kiley Edgley and Eric Schneider had been waiting about 20 minutes and were toward the front of the line. Like several people I spoke to, the fact that this effort was being organized by the occupy movement wasn’t a motivating factor—they found out about the opportunity to volunteer online and just wanted to help.

So how did an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, best known as a leaderless movement that brought international attention to issues of economic injustice through the occupation of Zucotti Park in the financial district last year, become a leader in local hurricane relief efforts?  Ethan Murphy, who was helping organize the food at St. Jacobis and had been cooking for the occupy movement over the past year, explained there wasn’t any kind of official decision or declaration that occupiers would now try to help with the hurricane aftermath.  “This is what we do already, “ he explained: Build community, help neighbors, and create a world without the help of finance.  Horst said, “We know capitalism is broken, so we have already been focused on organizing to take care of our own [community] needs.” He sees Occupy Sandy as political ideas executed on a practical level.

As frustration grows around the city about the pace and effectiveness of the response from FEMA, and other government agencies and the Red Cross, I imagine both concerned New Yorkers and storm victims alike will remember who was out on the front lines.

the link: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2012/11/04/occupy_sandy_hurricane_relief_being_led_by_occupy_wall_street.html
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage" Anais Nin .. and yet we must arm ourselves with fear

Offline Riney

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Re: Is Occupy Wall Street Outperforming the Red Cross in Hurricane Relief?
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2012, 19:26:17 PM »
a little more on this subject....

The problem with the Red Cross
By Felix Salmon NOVEMBER 12, 2012

If you thought the official New York marathon statement about being cancelled was tone-deaf, just wait until you hear this — on video, no less:

Gail McGovern, chief executive officer and president of the Red Cross, told NBC News’ Lisa Myers late last week that the response has been timely and well-organized: “I think that we are near flawless so far in this operation.”

This is chutzpah of the highest order: at least in the first dreadful days after Hurricane Sandy hit, the best adjective to describe the Red Cross was “invisible”, rather than “flawless”. One of the best ways to judge charities is by the way in which they learn from their mistakes and constantly improve; by that standard, the Red Cross is positively ostrich-like in the way that it refuses to admit that there was even a problem at all, let alone that it might have reacted better.

It’s incredibly sad, because the Red Cross is the default charity that everybody gives to whenever there’s a tragedy. Even I did so, not that I’m any great fan of the organization: I bought the Sandy benefit print from 20×200, and the proceeds from that are going to the Red Cross. But at least in the early days, and even now, it’s hard to find a Sandy-relief drive which isn’t giving its money to the Red Cross: whether you’re donating money at Chase ATMs, or donating your Starwood points, or whether you’re giving in response to a telethon, the Red Cross always ends up being the beneficiary. And in the case of Sandy, the amount raised is truly enormous: $117 million and counting.

The Red Cross loves to talk about its massive efforts, with what it claims is a group of 5,700 volunteers — but frankly I don’t trust the Red Cross’s numbers, given the many reports where the Red Cross higher-ups have sworn that they’re in a certain location and helping, even as no one who’s actually there has seen any evidence of them.

And in any case, the Red Cross doesn’t seem particularly capable of actually putting those 5,700 volunteers to good use. The real heroes of Sandy have been the much smaller-scale organizations, often built on an ad hoc basis. Occupy Sandy is the main one, and it’s been doing an amazing job, as Glynnis MacNicol recounts in a fantastic dispatch for Capital New York:

Almost without fail, what is being done in the neighborhoods I visited is being done by local community organizers or organizations like the increasingly impressive Occupy Sandy group…

At the end of nearly two weeks, the majority of which was spent traveling to the most devastated areas of Brooklyn and Queens, I could not tell you, nor could very many people I met, what government agencies a person could expect to arrive to help them in this disaster because I saw so few on the ground who might know.

This kind of story has been told many times, but bears repeating:

It was difficult not to conclude based on our surroundings that the neighborhood had not been served at all. Within five minutes of us setting up our goods in the empty lot, and without any real outreach needed, crowds began to appear—batteries, flashlights, disinfectants, diapers and blankets were getting snatched up quickly. It’s at this point the need began to feel overwhelming, and the frightening suspicion that help, official help in the form of city officials or large established disaster-relief organizations, was not going to arrive, started to sneak up on us…

While I was unpacking a garbage bag full of blankets one woman arrived with her daughter, who appeared to have Down syndrome, and asked if she could take two blankets instead of one. The feeling that I, or any of the volunteers, were somehow believed to be in charge of dictating what rations these families struggling in the cold could get struck me suddenly, and was obscene. I told her to take what she wanted. We left before the sun went down.

The next day Ben told me he returned to the same location to find a army of volunteers had arrived and an impressive organization had been set up. We had simply been the first ones out there—six days after the storm.

continue reading: http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2012/11/12/the-problem-with-the-red-cross/
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage" Anais Nin .. and yet we must arm ourselves with fear