Providing Empowering Tsunami Aid:
Suggestions from Starhawk & UFPJ (United for Peace & Justice)

The following is adapted from Starhawk’s article, “Four Suggestions for Empowering Aid.” For the full text, see her website, []. Starhawk is a well-known global justice activist and organizer, whose work and writings have inspired many to action.

Our hearts grieve for the hundreds of thousands of victims of the December 26 tsunami, which may be the worst natural disaster in human memory. But how do we help in a way that empowers communities and does not strengthen the grip of the international institutions of power?

Politically, we can continue to pressure the US and other governments to provide aid, and to call for a moratorium — or better yet, outright cancellation of the World Bank and IMF loan repayments owed by affected countries.

Personally, we can donate to groups that are working close to the ground, that have longstanding ties to communities, and that share the values of sustainability and justice. Here are three suggestions:

Sri Lanka:
The Nonviolent Peaceforce has been working in Sri Lanka, attempting to be a neutral, nonviolent presence in the ongoing civil war. They suggest donating to Sarvodaya [], one of their partner organizations, which is providing relief in one of the most devastated countries.

Donate to Sarvodaya online through the Nonviolent Peaceforce at:

To donate via post within the US, send a tax-deductible check made out to: Sarvodaya USA, 5716 Manchester Avenue #3, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

Please earmark the check for the Tsunami disaster and note it is being sent via the Nonviolent Peaceforce.  

Nonviolence International has worked in Aceh for five years. Their Peace Education Program has worked with religious leaders, teachers and youth to build the capacity for peacebuilding and nonviolent resolution of conflicts in Aceh, where a civil war has raged for years. At last report, three of their staff members were missing. Their library of books and manuals, computers, financial records, curricula, and works in progress are all gone.

Nonviolence International-USA has established a relief fund for the victims and survivors of the earthquakes and tsunami in Aceh. Funds can be sent via the website at: [], or checks can be made out to Nonviolence International, PO Box 39127, Friendship Station, Washington, DC 20016, USA. 

All Areas:
Via Campesina [www.viacampesina. org], the global organization of farm workers, has set up a relief fund specifically to empower local civic society a

nd communities. The relief philosophy of Via Campesina is that communities should participate actively and be the key actors in the reconstruction process, and that peasant organizations should play a key mobilizing and supporting role. Via Campesina wants to give communities and organizations the political support they need in this process, and to help get the funds needed for reconstruction. The funds raised in this campaign will be used to strengthen local communities as the key actors in this process.

Make a secure on-line credit card donation at:

[]; or make a check out to “Via Campesina/CENSA” and mail it to: CENSA/Via Campesina, 2288 Fulton Street, Suite 103, Berkeley,  CA 94704. Earmark the check for tsunami relief.  

The following suggestions come from United For Peace and Justice [www.unitedfor]. United for Peace and Justice is a coalition of more than 800 local and national groups (including SPC) throughout the US who have joined together to oppose our government’s policies of permanent warfare and empire-building.

Demand Increase in US Aid
Contact your Congressional representatives to demand that the US government dramatically increase its aid to the affected countries. After considerable pressure, the Bush Administration has upped its pledge of support to $350 million – but that figure is still insultingly small, less than the amount that is wasted every two days on the war in Iraq. Find contact information for your representatives at [ gov] and [].

Demand Immediate Debt Cancellation
Like much of the Global South, the countries most affected by the tsunami have been crippled for years by staggering debt. Support the call by Jubilee South [] and groups all over the world for the unconditional cancellation of all the debt owed by these countries. Support this demand by joining Jubilee USA Network in sending a letter to President Bush and Treasury Secretary Snow.

Support Grassroots Relief Efforts
Private giving is no substitute for government aid or debt cancellation. That said, there are many grassroots nongovernmental organizations in the region that not only do key relief work but are also empowering local communities and providing a crucial counterweight to the often corrupt and brutal governments of the most affected countries. Below are several groups that we especially encourage you to support:

East Timor Action Network []
ETAN is collecting contributions from those who want to give direct aid to local grassroots and humanitarian organizations in Aceh. Direct donations to grassroots organizations in Aceh circumvent the inevitable siphoning off of resources by the Indonesian government and military, which has a long and brutal record of human rights violations in Aceh.

American Friends Service Committee []
AFSC, a UFPJ member, is mounting an important relief effort in Aceh. AFSC has had a presence and contacts in Indonesia for more than 35 years, and is working to offer pragmatic, immediate help to build long-term recovery so that communities can rebuild long after the media attention and compassionate responses for aid have diminished.

The human rights group MADRE, a UFPJ member, has partnered with a Sri Lankan women’s organization, INFORM, to help establish and equip emergency health centers in areas affected by the tsunami.