2010-2011 Commentary — 01 April 2011

By Mindy Nguyen

Devastated areas in Haiti, seen here shortly after the Jan. 2010 earthquake, will take time and money to repair, but foreign aid dwindles quickly in the weeks after a disaster. Photo by Marco Dormino of the UN Development Programme

Whenever something tragic happens, regardless of the geographic distance, people develop the instinct to care. People feel the effect, not as badly as the ones who were physically affected, but they want to help; people give out of sympathy and some people give for the sake of being a good person.The question is, why do we care?

Recently, Japan was struck with a huge earthquake and tsunami, followed by more quakes that spanned through the month. Sendai, a city of more than 1 million people, was inundated in one chaotic wave, tragically destroying landmarks and killing families who resided within the city. People became petrified by the level of destruction natural disasters can ultimately bring and how capable they are to do much worse.

Students our age also remember other major national and international disasters such as the Jan. 2010 earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Katrina in the southeastern United States.Whenever disaster hits, there are always charities ready to aid the affected areas and people who are willing to donate.

“Karma plays a large role in it,” said Kelly Truong, senior. “When you open your heart and give to others, they’ll do the same in return.”

Many people, like Truong, believe in the golden rule where one should treat others only as they consent to being treated in the same situation.

“I think if people are inclined to give when disaster hits, they should think about doing it more regularly and identify a place where people really need [financial help],” said English teacher Ted Harris, who went on to mention organizations like Oxfam and UNICEF.

Harris added that people shouldn’t get excited and care only when there’s a “big-budget, blockbuster disaster” but they should help those suffering in the world every day who need their help. Although Japan suffered a painful disaster, they are financially capable of recuperating, whereas countries like Haiti are still in a difficult position recovering from their major disaster last year.

“That’s the question: Do we really care? People tend to care with a $25 donation,” said Harris. “So if we care about people suffering in Japan, we should care about people living Congo who have easily preventable diseases like Schistomaisis [but can’t afford to cure themselves].”

Although there are always organizations seeking donations for those in need, people don’t give unless something tragic happens and that’s the problem. After the Sept. 11 attack, blood was crucially needed. People were openly willing to give blood then, but because it took a while to process all the donated blood, the people who really helped were the ones who donated blood several months earlier, in July of 2001. Those were the people who donated because they knew it was the right thing to do even though there was no major disaster at the time.

“The problem with this is that people tend to give at the wrong time,” said Harris, who is currently getting his Masters in International Diplomacy. “That’s what’s wrong with this sensationalist news culture that we live in.”

The message is, don’t wait for a depressing disaster to occur for you to do something. There are many things students can do to help their community and places around us, from donating money, blood, or food to organizations, to joining clubs like KIWIN’S, Key Club, Leo Club, BuildOn! and doing community service to help the community become a healthier, safer environment.
Finally, although Japan can afford to recover from their disaster, it doesn’t mean they don’t need our help. We should show them our support by donating money, supporting organizations like Red Cross that provide food, and continuing to purchase Japanese products, which will help the Japanese economy.

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