I'm very critical of many non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). I feel that most of them do very little in addressing the source of the problems they address and are marginal at best in alleviating the symptoms. Some even perpetuate and even create more problems than they address.
When I discovered Emergency (www.emergency.it) I was immediately blown away. Emergency and the sister US organization Emergency USA work to provide free-of-charge high standard medical care to the civilian victims of war (90% of today's war victims are civilian, 34% are children).
What stands out about Emergency are the following:
- only 6% of their money goes to overhead.
- They are not afraid to speak out against the cause of all the suffering they are working to alleviate and that is war itself. Most organizations are willing to sacrifice ethics at the alter of funding but Emergency is not. In 2001, when the US was getting ready to begin its bombing campaign on Afghanistan, they asked the NGO's to leave the country in exchange for funding after the bombing (it looks bad killing foreign humanitarian workers). Emergency refused as their services would be needed even more during a bombing campaign. They remained even during the bombing (see the film Afghanistan: Collateral Damages).
- Emergency will not accept money that might compromise their mission. They have turned down money from governments and their average donation comes from individuals and is around $30. Yet they have still been able to build dozens of facilities and treat over 3 million patients!
- Emergency is high-standard (often even better than first world). Many NGO's provide substandard care and some use old, expired products. Emergency believes that human rights are for everyone or else they are just privileges. They treat all their patients the same way they would expect their family members to be treated.
- Emergency helps create and coordinate hundreds of cooperatives in war torn areas teaching war victims new trades with their new disabilities. Many of their patients are landmine victims and Emergency staff realized that it's not enough just to patch them up and send them on their way. These people still have to survive once they leave the hospital so Emergency started a program to help them.
- Emergency has beautiful gardens and places for psychological healing in their facilities. They realizing caring for the wounds of war are only partially physical but arguably even more so psychological. They include this in their overall approach.
- Emergency employs local people and has the ultimate goal of turning over their hospitals to the communities they are built in. They also train many local people. Many of their former patients are now employees.
I have never been more inspired by anything in my life than I am with Emergency. I hope more people support this organization and more importantly, I hope more people question and challenge the fundamental flaws that create the need for such non-profits and also question and challenge the organizations who feed off of people's compassion and outrage while peacefully coexisting and sometimes even placating or participating in perpetuating the problem...say that one three times fast: )