What Do We Mean: RenegAID

One of our board members keeps reminding the rest of us to keep our focus on Natural Disaster like a focal point for a laboring mother. A focal point to distract us from the pain and fear that keeps popping into our heads. I am ever grateful for her reminders as our thoughts wonder around the landscape of chaos, expressing our opinions on what we see as haunting.

Last evening I spent time catching up on some inspiration by watching TED talks.

The one I have referenced here made me think…

Shouldn’t RenegAID be to survivors of Natural Disaster what TED talks are to inspiration and ideas? And shouldn’t RenegAID be to survivors of Natural Disasters what Burning Man is to art?

The event of natural disaster is not political. And we are about the event. In a catastrophic disaster, people who spontaneously show up to engage and help on their own volition, their own time, their own risk, their own money are called renegaid. They do whatever presents itself in the world of absolute chaos. They are not bound by policy and procedure and insurance clauses like volunteers who arrive from relief organizations such as Red Cross, etc. They are not bound by their schooling and corporate level. They are the off duty neighbors who drop what they are doing and run in to help, led by the spirit and not by rules. Rules don’t work well anyway in pure chaos. Corporations and governments exist awhile and then change but neighbors are forever.

In her TED talk, Nora Atkinson calls the Burning Man experiment in collective dreaming, off the grid, anti consumer community an “active collaborative making community.” It exists internationally year round but comes together once a year in the desert… made up of artists, scientists, welders, engineers, garbage collectors, etc. And when their time together is over, they disappear without a trace. Although the art is amazing, what inspires Nora most is why people come there again and again to make. She believes it gets to something that’s essentially human. She says that when people first come to Burning Man, they don’t know how to make this stuff. It’s the “active collaborative maker community” that makes it possible. And when artists stop worrying about critics and collectors and start making for themselves, these are the marvelous toys they create.

I loved the Burning Man people who came immediately and spontaneously to Katrina with bulldozers and tents and set up neighborhood with the Buddhist Temple. Spontaneous, engaging, willing to give of their talents and do whatever needed to be done in the moment, not worried about money or insurance. They were pretty renegaid.

Eunice
Referenced TED Talk: Why Art Thrives at Burning Man by Nora Atkinson

Misunderstanding the Gravity of the Situation

Looting? Really? Less than 48 hours into a catastrophic disaster?
I don’t think so.
Yet again news providers are reporting that looting is occurring. This time within the devastation that is underway on Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island following the latest earthquake and tsunami.

The things psychologists have identified that give people resilience are all wiped away in catastrophic disaster yet survivors locate and utilize creative resources to start connecting torn up pieces of what and whom may be left after the giant and relentless eggbeater has made the region unrecognizable even to surviving lifetime residents.

Looting and its synonyms refer to violent acts. In the case of catastrophic disaster, the violent act has already occurred and the survivors are neither criminally destroying nor trying to profit from finding creative resources to help save lives and minimize the devastation within the community.

Heroes help save lives and minimize the devastation within the community of survivors.
What is really happening is Neighborhood Resuscitation.

News providers.…your premise is wrong and so is your narrative.

Eunice

Disaster and Rebirth

Eunice takes us to the Gangway this week with some words on how we should view survivors of a catastrophic disaster.. and how we should act to support them..  -dc

A Thought from the Gangway

Disaster and Rebirth are stuck together like two sides of one coin. They are one thing.
Disaster-Rebirth
Power-Weakness
Lion-Lamb
Parent-Newborn Infant
It is imbalances of power-  neither good nor evil.  It exists. And it is dynamic. It’s our reactions, responses and relation, individually and together, to its existence that makes up the entirety of our lives. And it brings out our humanness.

Survivors of catastrophic disaster are like the lamb or newborn infant. They are in the weakest form of humanness. Do we blame a newborn infant for its weakness and inability to figure life out? Do we expect a newborn infant to understand it’s unfamiliar surroundings? That newborn infant only knows that it is cold for the first time. Hungry for the first time. Alone for the first time. And afraid, needing to be comforted with a blanket and eye contact. So it is with catastrophic disaster survivors. The human senses are all screwed up. Would we leave alone a nursery full of newborn infants with plenty enough formula-filled bottles in the nursery pantry? Or even would we leave them alone with a bottle full of formula in the foot of their individual cribs?

Sending emergency relief and medical supplies into a disaster without the immediate means of local distribution and communication within a broken distribution infrastructure is like leaving the bottles of formula in the foot of the cribs and expecting the newborn infants to make the connection and survive and thrive.

If you have ever been through the process of giving birth, those closest to the situation will remember those sleepless and fearful first days and nights which flowed into weeks and months without surfacing for air. You were in it thick. You were trying to figure out how to communicate with your infant. You cried a lot. But you were also amazed a lot at the little things you were witness to. The most blatantly pure form of imbalance of power and pure potential can be seen in a mother and infant learning how to make the connection in breastfeeding. It is nature’s supply and demand at its best. And it requires a support network of those closest to the situation. When it works poorly, it can mean failure to thrive for the infant and self blame for the mother and support system.

So it is with catastrophic disaster. If supply and demand doesn’t work well, it might mean failure to thrive for the survivors as individuals and as a neighborhood. Their potential may be stunted. And for the rest of us…we are left with a horrendous feeling of guilt and shame and division and blame.

So the moral of this narrative is: Let’s get it right. Even if it takes our lifetime.

And let’s forgive ourselves and others for not truly understanding what we are up against.

-Eunice

 

How to create a non-profit organization in Washington State

For those interested in creating a non-profit organization, the following list lays out how we did our organization in 2005, which you can use in conjunction with any other information you get from others to figure out your own style.
Pre-1. Everything else rests on this. The name you choose must be researched. It must be an original and not a close copy of another organization’s or business’ name, word, phrase or logo. Do a copyright search and document/keep your findings.
1. Business license – Olympia
2. Decide if you want to be For-Profit or Non-Profit
3. Choose a name and any DBA (doing business as) names
4. Choose what type of corporation you want to be (we are an S-Corporation)
5. Choose how many board members you want (we have 3-9)
6. Decide if you are a doing org. or a mentoring org.
7. How will you get your money to operate and meet your mission?
8. Do you want a membership organization?
9. Choose a simple Purpose (we chose: relief, product, distribution and consultation). The purpose is unchangeable so make it simple and broad.
10. Choose a beginning Mission Statement that fits within the Purpose.
The board can change or refine the Mission Statement within the Purpose parameters.
11. Go online to the Washington Bar Association and choose a format that fits your needs. You will need: Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Conflict of Interest Statement.
12. Choose your Incorporating Board (we had 3 people)
13. Have an Incorporating Board meeting and take minutes. Have each member sign the minutes. At the meeting also have all the Incorporators sign the Articles of Incorporation.
NOTE: the Purpose and the Articles of Incorporation are not changeable!!!!!!! If you mess up, you can dissolve the corporation and start over…I had to do that twice😀.
14. Take the completed and signed original and a copy of the original signed Articles of Incorporation to the Washington Secretary of State in Olympia and get it registered. You keep the original and give them the copy. Show them the original but you keep it.
15. While at the Secretary of State (SOS), ask to speak with the Charities Division and get registered with them. This is very important.
16. Get a map from the SOS so you can find your way around Olympia.
17. Go to the Department of Revenue in Olympia. Introduce yourself and your Organization.
Ask if there is anything you need to do at that office.
18. Go to Labor and Industries in Olympia. Ask if there is anything you need to do there.
19. Choose your Initial board members and set up a meeting time.
20. Make a tight agenda and make sure it is followed and everything is recorded correctly during this Initial Board meeting. Make sure to have the Bylaws and Conflict of Interest statement filled in and ready to be presented, edited and approved. If you have a Logo, present it for board approval. From here on out, you are no longer a single person on a mission, you are a body of people making decisions together. For ease of business flow, you might want a Quorum to be 50%. also, you might add a bylaw that board business, including voting, can be done using technology. (We amended our bylaws to be 50% and accepted technology. It is so much easier since we are not in one location. If the Organization has to pay to bring the members together for decision making meetings, it can be very expensive and time consuming which delays meeting your mission.) Also, choose if you want monthly meetings and if so, choose when and where.
Choose a bank or Credit Union at this first meeting. Put some thought into it. You will also choose the first year positions at this meeting: president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. The Secretary and President cannot be the same person. The board needs to agree to go ahead and file for Federal 501(c )(3) status. It’s best to follow parliamentary rules of order or something everyone can agree on in order to keep meetings short and to the point.
21. File for Logo trademark through the Washington Secretary of State office. (This is optional. It is what we did.)
22. Download and fill out all the required paperwork for the Federal 501(c)(3) status.
23. Contact an Accountant to review the paperwork before sending to IRS.
24. Be sure to keep copies of everything. Originals, if possible.
25. As a board, decide on 3-5 Core Values that make up your org. Keep them short.
Example: Every situation will be different – value that community
Example: Honor the next generation

Best wishes,
-Eunice

On disaster pornography

On page 246 of this 1994 article by Erica Burman there is a discussion of the concept of Disaster Pornography which is “the gruesome fascination with depicting, and commercially benefiting from people’s suffering and degradation.” The ‘pornography’ parallel is as follows: “bodies are represented as parts, devoid of subjectivity, and rendered available for use and consumption, with no regard for consent or participation.” In trying to understand fundamental principles that are important for an appropriate, just and dignifying approach in disaster response efforts, we keep coming back to the importance of putting survivors first and allowing space for survivors to lead in the recovery effort. This concept of disaster pornography points in a vivid way to the absolute necessity for survivor-driven recovery, which includes allowing survivors to make decisions around how the disaster itself is depicted in media and in aid organizations’ calls for funding of relief efforts.

Burman, Erica, (1994) “Innocents abroad: Western fantasies of childhood and the iconography of emergencies” from Disasters 18 (3) pp.238-253

http://core.roehampton.ac.uk/repository2/content2/subs/d.steedman/d.steedman1882/Burman%20(1994)%20Innocents%20abroad.pdf

-Bjorn

“Childhood and the Iconography of Emergencies”

I recently came across this academic journal article: “Innocents abroad: Western fantasies of childhood and the iconography of emergencies,” by Erica Burman.

Here are a few quotes from this 1994 piece in the Disasters journal.

  • “the use of the child in aid appeals repeats the colonial paternalism where the adult-Northerner offers help and knowledge to the infantilized-South”
  • “Within this imagery [of the distressed child]… ‘we’ are the competent donors; we have the power to ‘help’; ‘they’ are the helpless unfortunates.”
  • “Femininity and childish dependency are here collapsed to evoke sympathy. This reinforces assumptions of children’s passivity, and reproduces patriarchal relations, both within and between donor and recipient countries.”

Take a look at this article. There are some interesting insights to think about and incorporate.

Burman, Erica, (1994) “Innocents abroad: Western fantasies of childhood and the iconography of emergencies” from Disasters 18 (3) pp.238-253

http://core.roehampton.ac.uk/repository2/content2/subs/d.steedman/d.steedman1882/Burman%20(1994)%20Innocents%20abroad.pdf

-Bjorn

Regulating disaster responders

This article is so timely.  It shows how citizens rapidly and spontaneously help one another and how “the government” which cannot scale up in time to meet the disaster needs immediately is talking about regulating the citizens or at least make them go thru a certification process.  This is disaster mitigation at its finest (worst).  This article explained well what we said in our GlobalWA paragraph submission.
Article: Talk of regulating Louisiana’s freewheeling Cajun Navy makes waves – Washington Times
http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/aug/25/talk-of-regulating-louisianas-freewheeling-cajun-n/
In this case it is clear that the introduction of “official” aid in the form of channel blocking, disincentivizes  the immediate and effective spontaneous citizen aid.
-Eunice