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What Money Can't Buy


With billions of dollars pledged to the recovery and rebuilding in areas devastated by the Christmas tsunami, it is time to take a break in the donation frenzy and address some serious issues.

The tidal wave of giving has, for the most part, been a good thing. The influx of manpower has demonstrated the willingness of most countries to offer a helping hand to those in need. But a few other situations point out a sinister side to human nature every bit as damaging as mother nature.

In the areas hardest hit, especially Indonesia and Thailand, reports of child kidnapping and trafficking have surfaced. Some shady characters are attempting to make money adopting out children orphaned by the floods. A few monsters may have abducted children for sex slaves.

Across the world, unscrupulous opportunists have been caught accepting donations on behalf of the victims, but pocketing the money for themselves. Even in the tsunami zones, some thieves posing as medical and emergency personnel have robbed hotel safes and fleeced victims' belongings for valuables.

Out of this reality, two critical points must be made.

First, those generous enough to give, whether individually, corporately or governmentally, must give wisely. The president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Paulette V. Maehara, stated it well when saying, "Americans are very generous people... but they should also be vigilant and informed in their giving."

Scandals at well-known, established organizations, such as the United Nations and the United Way, have given donors good reason to examine how and where their contributions are being used. Give, but give to an organization that you know will stick with their mission, utilize the funds in a way with which you agree, and has some type of accountability.

Second, money alone cannot fix the situation in southeast Asia. Conditions in some of these areas were poor even before the tsunami struck. Ironically, the disaster has helped shed light on one area of concern that our organization, LIFE Outreach International, has been addressing for years now: clean drinking water.

Emergency water supplies are critical right now, especially with the rapid onset of waterborne diseases, but some of these have never had sufficient resources. Water wells, purification systems, and other infrastructure must be put into place or the problems will only be delayed until after the emergency supplies run out.

The massive number of children orphaned by the disaster -- the so-called "tsunami generation" -- will also require long-term care. Their practical needs, as well as their emotional needs, won't go away in a month or a year. UNICEF is estimating "tens of thousands" of new orphans now exist in the affected regions. That's an ambiguous guess, because nobody really knows how many people are dead and how many parentless children survived. Again, this problem won't go away soon.

Finally, no amount of money can begin to address the human condition of those left behind. Prior to the disaster, our organization partnered with an outreach in Thailand to rescue girls captured or sold into prostitution. With reports of sexual predators already emerging, the need for something more than emergency supplies is apparent.

Yes, the generosity of America and the rest of the world is a wonderful demonstration of compassion. But if we do not address the long-term needs of the people affected by this disaster, as well as other disasters on a smaller scale, then we are merely bandaging wounds with dollar bills. We must stay committed to complete physical, emotional and spiritual healing.

Author: James Robison

Word Count: 584

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.