extend aloha to
Observers say the people of
Hawaii, who have donated thousands
in relief aid, identify with
Island groups assist Red CrossMary Adamski
Hawaii residents have given more than $100,000 to the American Red Cross to assist refugees in the Yugoslavia crisis, and have responded in other ways, too.
The outpouring of sympathy and support to victims far away doesn't upset the people who must scratch for funds to help needy people close to home. But it does stimulate some analysis about what it takes to open islanders' hearts and purses.
Hawaii residents' generosity has roots in the fact that we live on an island, and that many are immigrants or were refugees themselves, say some observers.
"I think people in Hawaii are very responsive to crisis," said Irving Lauber, president of Aloha United Way, which fell 10 percent short of its campaign goal last year. "Living on an island, we tend to be more responsive to what happens under severe conditions. You see it when the Red Cross appeals for a disaster, a hurricane.
"We tend to be pretty generous here," said Lauber, who has been in Hawaii for nine years and with united community campaigns for 30 years.
Anthony Marsella, a University of Hawaii psychology professor, said: "Many of Hawaii's people are immigrants, refugees, populations that have known oppression, injustice, uprooting, relocation and inequality. They really resonate to that and can respond in a very direct way: 'This is not too distant from what we have had to endure.' "
The Rev. Barbara Ripple said: "We need to be concerned about refugees, and we've got refugees here, escaping from child abuse, domestic violence, alcohol abuse."
"It's something I've preached on, that people will give to Africa but they won't shake hands with a black person at home," said Ripple, district superintendent of the United Methodist Church, which is conducting a Kosovo relief fund drive in its churches. "When it is someone in your neighborhood, you have to give so much more of yourself, and have your heart broken."
Lauber agrees: "There is a little compassion burnout that happens. Sometimes what we don't see is the everyday stuff." It's a problem Aloha United Way faces each year and a likely factor in the recent campaign's shortfall.
Some American Red Cross workers from the mainland who come here "are struck by this, that in Hawaii, people don't have the same geographic limits in their giving," said Lynn Carey, community support manager of the Hawaii chapter. "People give where they see the need."
The Rev. John Strickland, pastor of Unity Church of Hawaii, which has launched a "Spare Change" drive supporting the Red Cross, observed that no one even questions the details about the Kosovo refugees, whether they're Muslims or Christians.
"Americans don't know much about the rest of the world, we don't care how it started, we just know people are hurting, have no homes to go to," he said.
Marsella said the highly visible Kosovo tragedy, seen in the news daily, "arouses a more intense moral response because of the suffering we are seeing. You feel compelled to give, you feel that the cause is genuine and needed."
The outpouring of support also "reflects our anger with Milosevic and the Serbian people. It becomes an opportunity to stand up against evil and injustice, for things that are patriotic, moral and virtuous," Marsella said.
Alice Parker, co-director of Community Clearing House, said the agency is concerned that "people don't become desensitized" about the needs of local people. "People get a little burned out when there are too many stories," she said, and that has led the agency to analyze its fund-raising campaigns, such as the Star-Bulletin Good Neighbor Fund at Christmas.
"We have to keep reminding people, although we all know you know jobs are down and people are having a hard time," said Julie Ohara of the River of Life Mission development office. She said donations were diminishing over the past three years, but the mission has revamped and met its budget.
Carey said callers to the Red Cross headquarters say they can't believe something so barbaric is happening right before the year 2000. "I think the pictures they see on the news, there is no denying this is a terrible tragedy. People call us and say: 'That, but for the grace of God could be me, or could be my grandfather.' "
Island groups assistBy Mary Adamski
Aiea Intermediate School will donate money collected at its penny carnival April 30. Members of Nuuanu Congregational Church have offered to share their expertise in the behind-the-scenes work of cataloging contributions and thanking donors.
They're among the groups offering help daily to the Hawaii chapter of the Red Cross as it seeks to funnel aid to refugees driven from their homes in war-torn Yugoslavia, said community support manager Lynn Carey.
Church organizations also launched fund-raising efforts. Here's where to find them:
Red Cross: Direct donations may be sent to American Red Cross, International Response Fund, Hawaii State Chapter, 4155 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu, HI 96816.
Unity Church of Hawaii: Big blue plastic bottles for donations are showing up at schools, businesses and other organizations in the "Spare Change Project" started in support of the Red Cross drive. Groups that want to participate may pick up a "refugee aloha jar" between 10 and 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. Sunday. Or, call the church, 735-4436, where Carol Ann Driscol is project coordinator.
Catholic Relief Services: Monetary collections will be taken in all 69 Catholic parishes for the international relief agency, which has teams in Yugoslavia, said Carol Ignacio of the Honolulu diocese Office for Social Ministry. Direct donations marked "Kosovo Relief" may be sent to the Honolulu Catholic Diocese, 1184 Bishop St., Honolulu 96813, or the Office for Social Ministry, 140E Holomua St., Hilo, HI 96720. For more information, call the office toll-free at (877) 935-3050.
United Methodist Church: The Rev. Barbara Ripple, district superintendent of the United Methodist Church, said churches in Hawaii will be involved in an appeal to support refugee centers in Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is cooperating in an ecumenical partnership, Action by Churches Together, which is distributing food and securing shelter for refugees. Local gifts will be forwarded to the California-Pacific Annual Conference. For information, call the United Methodist Committee on Relief Depot at (800) 814-8765.
Baptist churches: The current Hawaii Pacific Baptist newsletter provides the following addresses for direct mailing. Checks designated "Kosovo Relief" may be sent to the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, General Relief Fund, Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230. Checks marked "Balkan appeal" may be sent to Baptist World Alliance, World Aid Fund, 6733 Curran St., McLean, VA 22101.
Episcopal Church in America: Donations designated for Kosovo aid may be sent to the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief, Episcopal Church Center, 815 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017.
Salvation Army: Checks marked "Kosovo Relief" and payable to The Salvation Army World Service Office may be sent to that office, P.O. Box 269, Alexandria, VA 22313.
The Better Business Bureau of Hawaii urges potential donors to be cautious about appeals for Balkan refugees and ask questions if they don't recognize the charitable organizations or are pressured by collectors.
Beware of bogus donation requests
"Given the urgency and overwhelming needs of the refugees, this is all the more reason for donors to check out soliciting groups to ensure their generosity is used effectively and wisely," said bureau President Anne Deschene.
To check out a charity, call the bureau any time: 536-6956 on Oahu, and toll-free from the neighbor islands, (877) 222-8551.
Or visit the bureau's Web site at www. hawaii.bbb.org.
The bureau advises against giving credit card numbers to a telephone solicitor and urges prospective donors to ask for written information on a charity's programs and finances.