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    Friday, December 31, 2004

    We were discussing our sudden urge for charity last night. Some of my friends were buy food and water and giving it to this temple. And the temple, with the assistance of Sri Lanka Air was going to air this cargo to Sri Lanka. When I say food, I mean instant noodles by the boxes and industrial-sized bottled water. Then we have lines of people at the temple with their boxes of instant noodles and industrial-sized bottled water. In other words, we are talking about a whole lot of instant noodles and industrial-sized bottled water.

    Then it got me thinking as instant noodles and industrial-sized bottled water do. As well intended as we are, wouldn't it make more sense to give money to an organised charity; preferably a reputable one and non-government related?

    I am no United Nations official but think about it. It would take a whole lot of plane to ferry all this low-value cargo to Sri Lanka. And it would be very difficult for people on the ground to distribute rations which are not standardised. Who gets the big bottle of water? Who gets the small ones? Who gets the can of tuna and who get the instant noodles?

    And why instant noodles? I am thinking food that does not require cooking like high-nutrient crackers, chocolate, bread. You know, the sort of thing soldiers eat at war.

    It would make more economic sense to send food from India. Sri Lanka Air and the other airlines should use the planes to ferry high-value water treatment or medical equipment or people. Not cheap food.

    I think, in haste, we want to satisfy our own personal need to give. Just so we know that we have done our part. And because we think we are being smart when we say "I don't give her money. I give her food" because that was how we dealt with our last Indonesian maid when she asked for a loan, we think this reasoning will work in this scale. We are contributing to a distribution hassle.

    Or perhaps if we give money, we think it will go into the pockets of some corrupt government official. Perhaps. But more unlikely. Or we giving money doesn't have the same kind of visual satisfaction of backing up a car filled with instant noodles and bottled water to a temple with people watching. What I think people on the ground need there is money and coordination in using this money. I think that's what the Red Cross is for.

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