Letter to the Editor: "Vive Haiti" Erred in Including Grassroots International as a Beneficiary in i
By Erik Schulwolf '10, Nic Zhou '10, Mason Bradbury '10, Saumitra Thakur '11, Jared Crum '11, and Adam
All of us here at Amherst have been shocked and horrified at the carnage wreaked by the recent earthquake in Haiti. We recognize that it is imperative to provide immediate and meaningful humanitarian assistance to the Haitian people. We also believe that the humanitarian work being done in Haiti should only be the beginning of our assistance to the country; creating sustainable development in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country is important for the maintenance of stability and human security in the Caribbean region. For this reason, many of us have donated individually to the efforts of the various relief and rebuilding organizations working on the ground in Haiti. We also applaud the efforts of the ad hoc Vive Haiti group to collect donations campuswide. We think it is reasonable that they decided to donate the proceeds of their drive to organizations that are less well-known than the International Red Cross and Partners in Health, but that do equally important work.

Despite our general appreciation for the work that Vive Haiti has done, we would be remiss if we did not express concern with the inclusion of Grassroots International as a beneficiary of its fundraising efforts. According to the fourth principle of the Vive Haiti group, the group wants its donations to reflect a “balance of emphasis on short-term ‘relief’ work and long-term development work.” Saving people and reconstituting livelihoods are nonpolitical goals around which everyone can rally, and the Vive Haiti effort has indeed been touted as a nonpolitical one. However, Grassroots International is anything but a non-political organization.

Grassroots International describes itself as working “to create a just and sustainable world by building alliances with progressive movements.” It depicts itself as substantially opposed to the United States’ global activities, declaring that it focuses its “efforts in areas where U.S. foreign policy has been an obstacle to positive change.” Some of its positions and rhetoric would be extremely controversial if given a full airing on this campus. For example, Grassroots International supports the demolition of the Israeli security barrier between Israel proper and the West Bank. In its discussion of its work in Central America, its tempered assessment of the situation is that the genocidal Spanish conquistadors of old have found their successors in “corporate boosters and technocrats pushing free-trade agreements and the gospel of the free market.” Beyond doubt, then, Grassroots International hails from the extremes of the political left. Incidentally, the argument that Grassroots International’s polarizing political views is separable from its work in Haiti is specious. One of the organization’s major partners on the island is “The Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development … a coalition of nine Haitian popular and non-governmental organizations that work with the Haitian popular movement to develop alternatives to the neo-liberal model of economic globalization.”

We are not saying that Vive Haiti has no right to run a fundraising effort for Haiti that donates a share of its proceeds to a leftist political organization. We do, however, think it a bit problematic that Vive Haiti gave us no inkling of the nature of Grassroots International when they failed to mention any political goals and told us that their effort was about saving lives and rebuilding the country. Many students of a non-left-wing bent who may have donated their money to Vive Haiti were almost assuredly unaware that Grassroots International is what it is. This being the case, it is only right that Vive Haiti drop Grassroots International from its list of beneficiary organizations. If they do not, we at least hope that they will be more forthright in coming weeks about the true nature of the organizations to which they give their money, thereby allowing students to make informed choices about where to donate for Haiti relief.

Issue 14, Submitted 2010-02-10 01:43:10