“It’s too much” — looking back at a year of crisis response
By AJ Chalom, Humanist Giving Program Coordinator
This year, Foundation Beyond Belief’s Humanist Crisis Response program was on a roller coaster, frequently called upon to respond to the constant trials facing our world. Crisis response is not something we at FBB want to do—but we need to do it. Our compassion drives us—and you, our members—to help, as we try to connect with the victims and imagine the pain that they endure.
In January, we reported on a significant hurricane, Bopha, that had slammed into the Philippines, leaving destruction in its wake. We did not launch a crisis drive, but suggested an organization to support. There was no way to know that these people would face an even more severe disaster within the year.
In May, a tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma, and surrounding communities. This crisis was on home soil, and perhaps it was that familiarity that resulted in a flood of donations from our members and community. We supported the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and Operation USA, two organizations that would be involved in the recovery effort long term. We heard stories of the devastation, and the world met Rebecca, before being able to comprehend the destruction to the world around her, in an interview that would change her life.
There are crises that occur in an instant, that we watch develop on the news in a raw, unexpected way. When these events occur, like the Moore tornado, we are compelled to jump into action. Others crises sneak up on you, building slowly over time. Sometimes they are across the globe, evolving and growing unnoticed by the wider world. The extreme refugee crisis created by the war in Syria is one such disaster. More than 7 million people have been displaced, many of them children. When the true scope of this disaster became clear, Foundation Beyond Belief could no longer ignore the humanitarian crisis and the pleas for assistance from international aid organizations. We turned to International Rescue Committee, which was already providing relief in a number of refugee areas. Each area had a different need: one needed clean water and sanitation, one needed shelter, others needed to protect residents or teach the children. Again, our members and supporters responded with donations that went to support the IRC in their work.
In November, we could see another imminent crisis. We knew a typhoon was moving toward the Philippines. This is a country that faces 20 tropical storms a year and was already reeling from a recent devastating earthquake. Typhoon Haiyan was later described as the strongest hurricane to make landfall in recorded history. FBB staff researched aid organizations and chose a local disaster response team, Citizens’ Disaster Response Center, as the beneficiary of our crisis response fund drive. However, very little news was reaching us. Power, road access, adequate food, and clean water—all were wiped out in the hardest-hit areas across the country. Responders had to choose how to use their limited resources: bring in food or water, offer medical assistance, or remove dead bodies? They just couldn’t do it all. We added seasoned relief responders Team Rubicon as a beneficiary, supporting TR’s infrastructure and medical teams. Even Team Rubicon’s experienced volunteers were stunned by the magnitude of the disaster and summed it up in a few words: “It’s too much.”
As a member of the FBB staff who works with our Crisis Response program, those three words echo in me and drive me to help in the way that I can. Many thanks to members and our community for supporting our Humanist Crisis Response program in 2013. When we’ve sent out the call in times of crisis, your response has been swift and generous. As our world changes, we can expect more disasters in the coming year, both natural and manmade. Your continued support helps to provide clean water for refugees, shelter for the displaced, medicine for the injured. Thank you for helping us show humanist compassion in times of greatest need.