Social Question

VanCityKid's avatar

Why are people so eager to jump on the opportunity to donate to Haiti, when before this disasterous event barely any money was going into other charities?

Asked by VanCityKid (579 points ) January 21st, 2010

Some of the people I know have donated to Haiti, but have never donated or talked about donating to another charity in their life. I saw pictures at GM place (where the Canucks play) and people were pouring their money into jars for the Haitian’s. Yet when I went to the Canucks game a couple months ago, barely anybody supported the 50/50 raffle which goes to Children’s Hospital (plus you have the opportunity to win something). Another example is the Sikh charity foundation, they raised 1.5 million dollars through just their community and were mentioning how they are very caring and loving people, but this is the only notable charity they have invested in. I’m not saying in any way that giving to the Haitian’s is a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great thing. I just don’t understand the people who have only decided to give their money to Haiti, and have never bothered to donate money before?

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15 Answers

laureth's avatar

There is a lot of need all the time. I think that’s the problem – people are so very used to the idea that there’s need all the time that it becomes like static, or background noise – they just don’t hear it. It’s like a bottomless pit that will never be filled.

On the other hand, Haiti’s earthquake was very sudden, very big, and it slapped peoples’ faces (metaphorically speaking) with the image of people buried in rubble and dying of need. It’s acute, not chronic, and that tugs on the heartstrings. (Don’t worry, though – people love the “disaster of the week” and will be back to their usual level of “giving” as soon as it passes out of the news. Do you think anyone is giving to tsunami victims or Katrina victims or even those poor Amish families whose daughters were murdered? Highly unlikely.)

Nullo's avatar

It is said that as far as impact goes, one local death is equivalent to 10,000 deaths in a remote foreign country.
And what @laureth said.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

Well, it’s most likely because the media is making such a big deal over it. They aren’t wrong for doing that, though. It IS a BIG DEAL. That’s not to say that the other things going on in the world aren’t, though.

Shield_of_Achilles's avatar

People are suckers for sob stories.

Austinlad's avatar

I know how cynical this sounds, but I think these disasters make some people feel guilty.

Darwin's avatar

The images on the 6 o’clock news got to them.

And while I am helping send money to Haiti, I am generally sending money to at least one or two international charities all the time, most notably Living Waters International, Heifer International, Fed by Bread, and Advent Conspiracy. I also give stuff to local charities that have thrift shops by which they support themselves, including the Women’s Shelter and Ronald McDonald House.

Blackberry's avatar

Similar to the booming american media swaying peoples opinion on the the vietnam war, the media plays a big part in a lot of things because it allows people to see what’s happening. No one constantly covers all the problems going on, they cover it when it surfaces, then people forget about it. People will forget about Haiti too just like everything else.

oratio's avatar

I think a part of it is that it’s a natural disaster. It’s not a war, not anybody’s fault, no sides to take. Part that Haiti never had a break, and now this. Part that it is very close to the US.

dpworkin's avatar

That’s not really fair or true. What about after the tsunami? And people gave a lot, plus donated a lot of labor after Katrina.

VanCityKid's avatar

@pdworkin – For clarification, I guess I mean, local charities, everyday charities. Not natural disaster type situations like everybody else had answered to.

HasntBeen's avatar

Psychologically, we tend to respond to exceptional circumstances more than continuous conditions. This is true in many areas, not just our response to Haiti.

Consider 9/11: a very exceptional circumstance—over 3,000 killed in one day in spectacular and horrific fashion. What was the response? We started two incredibly expensive wars, locked down all sorts of public venues—now we X-ray peoples’ shoes, for Gods’ sake! Meanwhile, heart disease and cancer have taken many times more lives than 9/11, year after year after year.

Where is the outrage about heart disease and cancer? Why aren’t we starting huge expensive wars and X-raying our shoes about it? Because those are static conditions, which persist like a steady hum… after a few days, the steady hum is no longer noticeable, and only the exceptional event gets our attention.

That is just how the mind manages perception, it says nothing about the character of the people involved.

naivete's avatar

Just to clarify: The Sikh community has donated a lot of money to hospitals in the lower mainland (Childrens and Surrey Memorial) in the past year. They are also great participators in blood drives. Just saying…

VanCityKid's avatar

@naiveteYeah they are, they are a large blood donor group and do hold the annual blood drive. For the Children’s and Surrey memorial hospital, they have yet to raise 1.5 million in a week. But we know this is besides the point

@everyone – Thank you, your answers have made a lot of sense this far and I agree completely.

dpworkin's avatar

My friends, my ex-wife, her friends, our kids and their friends all participate in local concerns by volunteering or donating money. I think charitable people don’t necessarily announce it, so it doesn’t make a stir. Maimonides once said that true giving is anonymous giving, and I kind of agree with that. No agenda. I think it happens everywhere in America on a larger scale than perhaps we know.

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