Monday, April 5, 2010
As soon as the earthquakes hit Haiti and Chile this year the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh opened what are knows as “Mail Boxes” to collect donation for relief efforts. The money is funneled through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The 95-year old organization has operations in 71 countries but did not have a base in Haiti. Committee C-E-O Steve Schwager says as far as they know there are only 3 Jews living permanently in Haiti but they rushed in aid any way. Schwager says all of the emergency relief aid raised by his organization goes to nonsectarian efforts and he says all of he funds go to helping the region in need. The Committee uses funds donated directly to the JDC to run the logistics and backroom operations. He says over the years Pittsburgh has been a good partner with the JJDC and it has a record of support that goes beyond most other cities on a per capita basis. As of the beginning of last month the JDC had raised a total of $6 million for Haiti relief from 12,000 donors nationwide. Schwager says the Committee sees itself as a second responder. Although it sends aid immediately it usually holds back about 75% of its funds for ongoing aid. Much of the money is spent after other aid organizations have pulled out of the country. In Haiti though, Schwager says it will be more like 50% immediate aid and 50% long-term aid. He says his team of three relief workers reported back after landing in Haiti that they had never seen such devastation. In the short term the JDC often teams up with the Israeli Army. In the case of Haiti, the army was sending a field hospital so the Committee sent in incubators and other items to treat children that are not usually part of an army hospital. He says over ten days the hospital saw 13 births and the two incubators were in non-stop use. In Chile the situation is a bit different. The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has been in that country for 50 years and has established a long list of contacts. Schwager says the ratio there will be closer to the 25-75 it sees in other situations. To give a feel for how long the JDC usually stay at the scene of a disaster, Schwager notes that the JDC is still helping communities hit hard by the 2004 Tsunami. Listen to an interview with Steve Schwager.