By Kevin Murray
January 14th, 2005
I am transitioning out of my role as Executive Director of Grassroots International, but won't do so without one parting entry in this Grassroots Journal.
Money is power, and with billions of dollars of aid and assistance flowing into the countries around the rim of the Indian Ocean, there is a lot of power at play.
There are many examples of inspirational work being done: peasants distributing fresh fruit and vegetables to their hungry neighbors, bloggers on the internet setting up virtual bulletin boards to help reunite families and friends, churches, NGOs, and movements organizing to make sure that help goes where it is needed most.
There are also examples of what seems like the kind of "help" people might be better off without.
The US government has pledged $350 million (nearly ten times the amount Bush plans to spend celebrating his second inauguration) . Unfortunately, it seems that much of that money may be destined to support the repressive military regime in Indonesia. (See Roger Burbach and Paul Cantor's piece on Bush, the Pentagon and the Tsunami here.)
The Via Campesina has begun to produce weekly news updates with reports from their members on the situation on the ground in the areas affected by the tsunami. In this first issue, you can read about groups like the Indonesian National Peasants Federation (FSPI). While donated food is stuck in airports and warehouses, local farmers are providing fresh fruit and vegetables, cassava and rice, and cooking tools and oil to the victims of the disaster. Other groups in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India are using their local movements to organize work crews to clear rubble, recruiting boat builders to begin to repair the devastated fishing fleet, and tailoring their relief efforts to meet the specific needs of the people who need the most help.
January 5th, 2005
Indonesia's National Federation of Peasant Organizations (FSPI) and Sri Lanka's National Organization of Fisherfolk (NAFSO) have organized rescue and relief teams in Aceh and North Sumatra Indonesi
More than 100,000 people have now been reported dead in the aftermath of the earthquake and floods that have devastated the coasts nations around the Indian Ocean.
Grassroots International sends its condolences to the thousands of people who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods in the catastrophe.
We are monitoring the situation, looking for local groups that are doing vital relief and redevelopment work and advocating for a swift and effective response from the U.S. government. During the present emergency situation, we are directing our supporters to send their contributions to groups that we believe are doing their best to work directly with local organizations, and who are doing so wherever possible without becoming beholden to the U.S. government by dependence on government funding.
The World Forum on Agrarian Reform, held from December 5-8, 2004, in Valencia, Spain, exceeded all expectations in terms of participation by grassroots soci
What's in a name?
At first glance, the fact that the landless workers who were assassinated on November 20 by gunmen hired by a local landowner in Minas Gerais were living on a farm called "New Happiness" (Nova Alegria) in "Happy-town" (Felizburgo) seems like a bitter irony.
After decades of struggle, as part of the biggest social change movement in Latin America, in a country with a former union activist as president, these people were murdered for daring to dream that they could have a piece of land to call their own, a farm to feed their family and their nation.
This morning, I went to the Lt. J.P. Kennedy Memorial School in Hyde Park, MA to speak about Grassroots International's program in Haiti. The Kennedy School is a Catholic School providing a K-6 education to youngsters in a predominantly working class neighborhood of Boston. The school has always seen service to immigrant youngsters as an important part of its misson. It was founded by Polish sisters to serve Polish immigrants to the area. Today, about one-third of the school's students are Haitians.
As part of its effort to increase the entire school's knowledge of Haiti and its appreciation of Haitian culture, the school held some community conversations last spring. I represented Grassroots at one of those discussions and spoke about our program in Haiti, especially the Creole Pig Repopulation Project.
Haiti has a new development plan aimed at pulling the country out of its age-old economic, social and political morass with new roads and schools, policy changes and millions upon millions o
While there's no doubt that drought-stricken Haiti needs rain, the water-poor nation did not need the flash floods that struck late in May, killing thousands and leaving thousands more without food, shelter or potable water. There's also no doubt that Haiti could use a helping hand from the international community, but to date, U.S. and French and now U.N. forces have done little to really help Haiti's most vulnerable citizens. Click here to read Grassroots' analysis of the situation.