I had a couple of other things I wanted to write about this week until terrible summer rains devastated parts of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. There's flooding every year, and last year was also a disaster, killing several hundred people in both states. This year's floods, though, are being called one of the worst natural disasters in Brazil, with over 500 mortalities in the mountain region of Rio state alone. It's one thing to see photos; it's another to actually see it for yourself:
So my question was, how can people help? It's a bit easier if you're in Brazil; there are tons of drop off points for donations, and bank deposits can be made to a number of organizations.
But it's a bit more difficult if you're outside of Brazil. Fellow blogger Alex Castro helped set up a site last year to help facilitate information about the floods and how to help. But even there, donations from afar can only be made through bank deposits (a reader pointed out you can make deposits online through Xoom, though at least Americans are more accustomed to direct online donations). Even the local businesses only seem to offer a phone number to call for more information about making donations; only NGOs have pertinent information available online.
Philanthropy is still developing in Brazil,in part because the government is often viewed as the institution responsible for solving the problems of the poor and those who cannot help themselves. But NGOs have also flourished in recent years and have been gaining more clout, despite some distrust due to scandals of embezzlement or fraud. Distrust is another issue that has hampered online banking and finance; Brazilians are especially wary, and are fearful of getting ripped off or having their financial information stolen.
Setting up online donations is theoretically one of the easiest ways to get quick funding, especially during natural disasters. After the Haiti earthquake, people from all over the world were able to help local organizations with a few clicks or even sending text messages, and while things are arguably still a total mess there, it was an easy way to send aid to people on the ground.
So I tried looking at some of the organizations working in the Região Serrana and Rio. The local Red Cross doesn't seem to let you make donations online, nor does Rio NGO Viva Rio. So far, the only local organization I found working in the area that lets you donate online is CARE Brasil.
For those of us in the US, you can donate to Red Cross International or CARE International. Still, I wish there was a more direct way. Any volunteers to set up a website to funnel online donations to Viva Rio and other local organizations?