Monday, July 13, 2009

Starting a NGO


S. talks about founding a NGO in Northern Thailand.

S: I went there originally as a pastor. I wanted to start a church.

wh5: And people came?

S: Oh, they came. Many were refugees. They came with traumatic life problems.

wh5: Like?

S: In Burma….loggers and the army come to a Karen village, they find the village headman, grab his daughter, beat and rape her, throw her into a burning house, the village cannot fight back, the villagers become the slaves of the loggers and environmental exploiters. If they can, the Karen escape across the border, into Thailand.

wh5: A terrible story.

S: I realized I couldn’t just pray or preach parables. It was more helpful for me to listen and take them in. Soon the church was full of refugees camping out in my house, which was also my church. I did what I could, we didn’t have a lot of money, but it didn’t take long for me to realize (1) I didn’t have the resources to carry on this permanently, and (2) God was telling me to find a way to recognize Him by helping these people.

wh5: Did you find a way?

S: So I started an NGO.

wh5: Political?

S: Basically an aid organization. Just my family at first, but now we have a staff, we can help with their needs. Essentials like clothing, medicines, food and cooking pots, plastic sheets, mosquito repellent.

wh5: How do you get funding for it?

S: Donations from churches. Foundations.

wh5: The U.S.?

S: A dozen different countries.

wh5: I think it was Bill Clinton who said that “people are inherently generous, that giving makes you feel good, and that the only thing most of us are looking for is an opportunity to make a difference.”

S: And Mother Teresa who said, “The poor are wonderful. The poor give us so much more than we give them.”

wh5: Are all your helpers Christian?

S: By no means, no. Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, they all work alongside each other.



Getting the message across about atrocities can be done in several ways.

We can present pictures of terrible scenes.

We can breathe fire and say loudly that something is unthinkable or shocking, we can urge that something must or should be done or it's essential, crucial, imperative, that something be done.

We can appeal to the listener’s sense of morals, “We can’t allow this to continue, we can’t just stand by and watch, we can’t just close our eyes to this.”

Or we can take a low-key, pragmatic, non-ideological, religio-tolerant approach such as S. does and set out the situation plainly and let the facts speak for themselves. Something stirs inside us and we feel we need to help. This low-key approach makes us think we initiated the assistance by ourselves.


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