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Medford market becomes focus for local efforts to send aid to Turkey

WBUR reports the Freerange Market in Medford, which sells Turkish products, is collecting donations for earthquake relief. The Turkish Cultural Center, Boston Dialogue Foundation and the Peace Islands Institute of Boston have set up a GoFundMe page.



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A year or two after the 2004 tsunami I ran across an article where they were in some of the seriously affected areas and toured warehouses which were still full of boxes of donated goods from the period shortly after the disaster. All unopened.

The point was to highlight the problem with these drives to get goods donated from individuals in a collection. The problem is fairly clear if you think about the supply and distribution challenges. On one side of a disaster zone you have a large number of people with specific and immediate needs. With the goods from these drives on the other side you now have a huge number of boxes with random stuff in them. At best they are sorted and labeled by broad category (though probably not in the local language) and at worst they are all mixed in together.

So now to support the large number of people in need you need to also have a significant number of people helping the operation on the distribution side to pull everything out of those boxes to sort and organize them in some sort of way that you can pair them with the people who are waiting for those goods, likely in an area that is not conducive to that sort of operation.

Meanwhile a $10 donation to a good aid program can go a long way to buying needed materials in bulk. Setting up a distribution center where you can drop pallets loaded with specific food, clothing, first aid material, medicines, etc. drops the logistical support needed to get those things into the hands that need them. Plus, buying at that scale means that $10 probably gets double to triple of what you're giving them that's been purchased at retail prices.

That's what happened with the tsunami items in the article. It didn't make any sense to have people sorting through those boxes when there were organized and efficient distribution points set up from relief agencies already there.

It's tough to criticize these kinds of drives because of the sincerity in the desire to help in the people making those donations and helping to pack and load them. Unfortunately the benefit to the people giving items from the feeling of helping those in the disaster area most likely outweighs the help given to those there.

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It's fungible, quickly delivered, and requires very little sorting and handling. :-)

I think the main concern is that it's easily abused rather than being used for the intended purpose, which... is actually a pretty legitimate concern. You have to do your homework more carefully when finding out where you're sending money.

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That's what I meant when I said a "good aid program" but I figured I was prattling on long enough that I needed to cut things down a bit there.

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NuDay Syria, based out of NH, has been working in the area for years, and has a 4/4 rating on Charity Navigator. They have boots on the ground already and have been helping with rescue/excavation efforts as well as feeding folks, distributing warm bedding, and providing medical care.

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