Red Cross bungles Haiti Relief: And who else? What about Episcopal aid?

NPR has just published its investigation of the Red Cross in Haiti. Titled, "Report: Red Cross Spent 25 Percent Of Haiti Donations On Internal Expenses,"it says this: "The American Red Cross spent a quarter of the money people donated after the 2010 Haiti earthquake — or almost $125 million — on its own internal expenses, far more than the charity previously had disclosed, according to a report released Thursday by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley." $125 million. That's a lot of money. This does not include the fact that the Red Cross farmed out much of its work to other agencies who in turn took more than 10 percent of what was received for overhead.

This scandal has been brewing for some time. Last year there was a preliminary report on this, and in Haiti there has been a good deal of criticism of the Red Cross and other relief agencies and the misdirection of funds.

Here in Anglican and Episcopal land it is time to raise a parallel concern.  Monies were raise for the effort to "rebuild our church in Haiti," primarily to build a new Cathedral in Port-au-Prince. Monies were also raised to support Episcopal Relief and Development and its work in Haiti. 

How much has been raised in these efforts and how has the money been spent?   What percentage of the funds raised have gone for overhead and supervision? 

Looking on the web I find that Episcopal Relief and Development has pages that are generally informative and  up to date. But it's hard to find the numbers about money raised for, earmarked, and spent in Haiti. Perhaps Episcopal Relief and Development will be able to give a better sense of that.

It is less clear just how much money has been raised for the rebuilding of the Cathedral. The website, "Haiti: More than a Cathedral" has its last post / report about a year ago, indicating that the Cathedral site was being cleared. I can't find any record or indication of the monies raised for this effort, but there is a list of dioceses and parishes that have contributed (refreshed when?)

In the past I have been told that exact numbers are not made public because to do so might present a danger to diocesan official "on the ground" in Haiti.

The problem is that not knowing how much was specifically raised and specifically spent for Haitian efforts by either Episcopal Relief and Development or the "Haiti: More than a Cathedral" effort raises questions of accountability.

At the very least there needs to be some sort of commissioned audit of both Church Center and Episcopal Relief and Development fundraising to indicate what percent of what was raise was spent in overhead, staff and related expenses and how much was made available for direct services, projects and efforts in Haiti.  Without revealing information that would be dangerous, that report could reassure those of us who have given to Haiti relief and the rebuilding of the Cathedral and other projects that our monies have been handled carefully and well. That report might also explore just how much can reported about specific amounts actually expended in grants and overhead.  As it is, donors (of which I am one) have received no information about how our monies are used.

Good but vague reports from ERD and a year old note on the Episcopal Church website about clearing the site are not enough.  

As with many things done by The Episcopal Church in regard to the Episcopal Church of Haiti there are is the odor of paternalism and the old "missionary diocese" model. It is unclear to me that the leadership of The Episcopal Church of Haiti was really consulted  (as opposed to talked to) on the matter of what sort of help they would be offered following the earthquake. 

They were offered a suffragan bishop, they were offered something that would "sell well," namely a new cathedral, they were offered funding provided it was supervised by outside agencies as the primary authority on just what was going to be done. And, as often happens with groups in great need, the offers that are made are the only ones on the table, and that being the case, it seems better to accept than reject them.

But the thing is, the Episcopal Church of Haiti has a life of its own, and the call for accountability is different from the call for outside control and decision making. Perhaps the real problem is that the Episcopal Church of Haiti, in its suffering, confused expectations to take over for offers of help.

When The Orthodox Anglican Church of Haiti asked to become a missionary jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church, after the death of its bishop, Bishop Holly, it gave up its right to determine its own future. For almost sixty years following union with TEC, The Episcopal Church of Haiti had white American missionary bishops. And now there have been two diocesans who are Haitian, and both of these have had to sing for their supper. 

Perhaps it would have been better not to have joined with TEC at all.  Maybe there could have been aid without the strings attached. Maybe, had the conversation gone differently, there might have been a new concordat replacing the old, by which there was a relation with TEC, but not one of organic union in which Haiti was seen as a missionary district or diocese, but rather as a sister church in need of long term relationship. 

Had there been any idea of Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence, we might have seen a church in Haiti that would over time, and in accord with an established set of goals, moved to become autonomous.

As it is The Episcopal Church of Haiti remains a colonial, paternal, mission society child, while at the same time being one of the largest Diocese of Episcopalians in the Church.

It is time for TEC to revisit the concordat that first existed with the Church of Haiti, and to revisit the vision of an Orthodox Apostolic Church of Haiti, part of the Anglican Communion, with its own governance and historic episcopate. And it is time to get clear about how Episcopal aid for Haiti works out on the ground. 


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