Misha Collins or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate Sean Penn

Things I intended to blog here about before I ever blogged about Misha Collins:

a) Advocacy: ur doin it wrong

b) Where Have All the USAID Administrators Gone?

zzzzz.) Cats: Good Aid Spokesanimals or the Best Aid Spokesanimals?

Basically it was my intention to never speak of Misha Collins here lest this turn into my Tumblr. (No, if you can’t find the link, you don’t get to see my madness.)

We’re about “srs bsns” here, people. We’re talking about aid work and advocacy and influencing Congress. We’re not talking about C-list actors that I happen to find attractive. We’re not talking about how blue their eyes are or how their li—focus, Lauren, focus.

My plan with this whole blogging business was to wow you all with my intelligence and well-reasoned arguments so the occasional nonsensical Tweets about “OMG NEEDS MOAR CASTIEL” would get a pass between my thoughtful questions about aid to Pakistan.

Then Misha had to go and start his own charity organization.

And here we are. I’m blog-ranting about Misha Collins.

A primer on Misha’s charity work up to this point: Right after the earthquake in Haiti, Misha (we’re on a first name basis, but I only call him Mishka in private, FWIW) leveraged the power and pocketbooks of his Twitter followers to raise over $30,000 for UNICEF. Awesome!

Now, Misha is attempting to once again tap his social networking prowess (and large fanbase) to raise funds for a new charity, Random Acts. Not awesome. (Sadface.)

Don’t get me wrong. I like charities! I like Misha! I want Misha’s charity to be one that I like. Unfortunately, it seems the people behind it have good intentions, but as we in the international development blogger community know, “Good intentions are not enough.”

Let’s look at how Random Acts says it’s going to spend the money it raises:

  • 33% will be divided between the orphanages we support in Haiti
  • 15% will go to support victims of the horrific flooding in Pakistan
  • 51.99% will go to support random acts of kindness all around the world
  • .01% will be spent bribing public officials

(Oh ho ho, I see what you guys did there at the end. So cheeky.)

I spent the first two days in a bit of a rage. How could Misha do this to me? How could he betray my trust as such a loyal Twitter follower? It was tough. No, I didn’t tear up my Misha posters or delete myself from all of the Misha Facebook groups to which I belong, nor did I cry into a box set of “Supernatural” DVDs.

Mostly I took it out on Twitter because it was a reminder of the fights we’ve fought against bad aid, the fights we’ve lost, and how the fight is never ending. Even the fight about how to fight bad aid projects is never ending (see: “Are Aid Bloggers Too Snarky?”)

At least when it was Sean Penn, I didn’t care. But with Misha, I care. Misha, I want you to succeed! You seem like a smart guy, I figure maybe there’s hope.

Let’s start with the orphanages. They tug at heartstrings, the stories about Haitian orphans were all over the news cycle, I get why there is a natural desire to support and fund orphanages. One of the things Misha says in the Random Acts’ introductory video is he wants to “cut out the middleman” in aid delivery. (That was the sound of a thousand heads hitting their desks in aid agencies across the land.) That means sending funds not to an Oxfam America, Mercy Corps, or even Save the Children, but instead sending funds directly to three orphanages in Haiti.

Long story short: bad idea. Disaster relief, especially after an earthquake like the one that hit Haiti, takes years, not just months. Long-term development projects for rebuilding livelihoods, schools, and public services are essential. Saundra at “Good Intentions Are Not Enough” again covers this eloquently and succinctly. She notes that after the tsunami hit Indonesia, tons of well meaning people built and funded orphanages. Unfortunately, because the rest of the community didn’t get the same services and benefits, families started sending their kids to the orphanages. Donors then see this influx of “orphans” and the cycle repeats itself.

Just sending money to a few orphanages instead of supporting a holistic approach to social justice that raises the standard of living for everyone is very problematic. It’s bad aid, not smart aid.

Misha’s fundraising would benefit more people and have a greater impact if the funds raised went to a bigger, well-established organization. Larger organizations can work with a community, assess its needs, stick around for more than a few months, and really rebuild lives, families, and communities.

So. Orphanages: no. Big, unsexy relief organization: yes.

Phew. That’s it, right? We’re good, otherw–oh. “Random acts of kindness”?

In the video (and let me just say, combining pretty people and video seems like a no brainer and yet I see it so rarely), these intended “random acts of kindness” are shown. One example includes handing out flowers to strangers. Okay. Fine. My apartment building gives all of its tenants a single rose on Valentine’s Day and I admit, it brightens my day for a few minutes and makes me forget the exorbitant rent I’m paying is also paying for the stupid flower.

Look, it’s hard to bag on random acts of kindness. Makes me seem like even more of a jerk. “Oh, you faceless blogger, you’re hating on Misha sending his minions out to deliver flowers to strangers.” You know what, when 15 cents on the dollar is going to Pakistan and 52 cents is going to flowers, I think I’ve got a soapbox on which to stand.

Misha wants to use his celebrity to help people. That’s noble and honorable. The way he’s chosen to go about it, though, reveals that we in the international development world still have a lot of work to do in educating people about what smart aid projects look like. They don’t look like Random Acts, unfortunately.

Earlier today on Twitter, I asked why, with so many smart people (smarter than me even!) writing about what makes an aid project worthy of donor funding, are there so many bad aid projects?

I got a lot of thoughtful responses from those smart people.

Linda wrote that it’s because money, politics, and humans are involved. @TMSRuge added that we can’t forget the egos invovled (sorry, Misha.) Tom didn’t add anything, just agreed with everyone, but Tom gets a pass because he’s from New Jersey. And Will, still slogging it out in Sudan, had perhaps the best answer, he said it’s because critiquing aid projects is easy.

Making changes is hard. It is easy for me to sit here and dash off all the reasons this new endeavor of Misha’s is misguided, but what comes after the critique is much harder. Does Random Acts shift its whole paradigm because one person on the internet thinks they would be better off giving their money to [insert your preferred INGO here]? Do they make less substantial changes in their approach? Or do they maintain the status quo?

I have no idea. But I would like to be able to put up my Misha Collins posters again without selling my soul to the dark side of aid. I want Bill Easterly to still be my Twitter follower, after all.

(I actually don’t own any Misha Collins posters. If any of you feel compelled to provide me with one, I shall hang it in my office in your honor. It will go right alongside the 8×10 photo of him that hangs here.)

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42 thoughts on “Misha Collins or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate Sean Penn

  1. Hi there, someone posted this on my twitter feed, I happened to click through, and i feel compelled to respond. You do have legitimate concerns and a well-reasoned argument.

    1) Haiti. I know full-well that good intentions can go badly when resources are poorly allocated. I spent a summer in Haiti during the coup that ousted Aristide in the 1990s and i know first-hand how awful Haiti’s infrastructure is and how dire pre-earthquake conditions there were. That said, i also saw innumerable malnourished children with distended abdomens when i was there. Yes, it is best to do something to improve the economy and social fabric of the entire nation, however, it is also important to feed hungry children, without whom no country has any future. So, when an earthquake creates tens of thousands of new orphans, I say, help where you can. Eventually with enough help in enough arenas, the country will turn around, but in the mean time, we should do what we can when we can. I happen to have a friend who is an investment banker and a generous spirit who has personal relationships with the people who run these orphanages. He is personally traveling to haiti to dispense the money that I raise and will do so sagaciously and with an eye to doing as much good and as little harm as possible. While i agree that well-orgainzed large organizations can usually do a better job than arbitrarily sending money to orphanages, i do think that in this instance we are making an efficient choice. Our overhead is a close to zero as you can get. No-one at Random Acts gets paid anything, we have no offices, no cars, no livestock and i personally know, trust, and respect the people who are delivering the funds to the Haitian orphanages.

    2)Pakistan. I have no contacts there, so we will be distributing money we raise through a larger aid organization, who will definitely be better equipped than us to allocate resources.

    3)Random Acts itself. I challenge your assertion that it is a “bad idea.” Part of what made me want to do this project was seeing so many of my followers on twitter putting so much energy and so many resources into fandom. I think all of that energy is great, but my thinking was, perhaps, if we could harness a fraction of those resources (both creative and fiscal), we could put some of this c-list idolatry to good use. This project is intended to harness these creative resources in a spirit of benevolence. It is not a soap box for some megalomaniacal dilettante who happens to have wandered into the limelight for 15 minutes. Preachy celebs make me hurl too.

    You make another point that people shouldn’t give flowers to strangers on the street, because the money spent on that flower would be better utilized by UNICEF. To that, I say: Bullshit. I believe that if people exercise kindness and generosity in their own communities, in their every-day interactions, that the recipients of those acts of kindness will, in turn, treat someone else in their lives more humanely and that in this way, good-will grows transitively and exponentially.

    Thanks for listening to my counter-rant,

    Misha Collins

    • Hello Misha,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond to the issues I’ve raised. And hey! It seems like you read your @replies so I guess I’ll be more circumspect in which inappropriate comments I include you in the future.

      Regarding Random Acts’ international relief efforts, delivering effective aid depends on accountability and transparency. Dialog with critics would be an obvious example. The type of accountability that gets talked about most often, I think, is accountability to donors. Organizations want to prove that they’re doing something tangible with the money they’ve received. What can get lost in this is accountability to beneficiaries. I’ll quote Mercy Corps here because they’re the second-best aid agency I know: “At a program level, NGO accountability means providing community stakeholders with means of evaluating a project’s goals, the appropriateness of its implementation strategy, and ultimately its effectiveness in meeting those goals.”

      Having the relationships on the ground and with the disburser of aid is a great first step. Next steps would hopefully include dialog with beneficiaries, with community leaders, with other NGOs even to make sure efforts aren’t duplicated and are appropriate in the current humanitarian context. You see a need and you want to do what you can and that’s great, but is it the same need Haitians see?

      On overheads, to quote someone paraphrasing (so who knows what the original said):

      “Investors and consumers don’t buy Apple stock and Apple iPods because Steve Jobs spends very little on rent and salaries. They do so because Steve Jobs produces the best mp3 players on the market. Likewise, donors should not be sending their money to a specific NGO because they have the lowest overhead. They should be supporting the NGOs that produce the best projects, save the most lives, help the most children, create the most jobs.”

      Having a low overhead and doing good works aren’t mutually exclusive, but cutting corners shouldn’t be tolerated for the sake of having a low overhead. Believe me, as the administrator of a small non-profit, I know the value of free labor. In fact, I’m a little concerned about where my unpaid intern has gone off to at this moment (which I think shows how important she is.) But it’s true: we spend money on office space and web hosting services and payroll, things that make it easier to do our jobs. FWIW, I have complete faith in the volunteer staff you’ve assembled, but spending money on overhead costs shouldn’t be a third rail of non-profit accounting, either.

      Pakistan: yay!

      Random Acts: First, I hope you don’t drop the megalomaniacal thing. It’s far too entertaining. Second, I hesitate to back away from “bad idea” because that would be like admitting defeat and this is the internet where no one ever concedes points, but. I think encouraging kindness to strangers is a good thing. I see kindness and energy all over fandom, too. People write or create things for complete strangers because they want to do it. It’s also free. I question the need to raise money to do kind acts. It seems you’re actually creating the “middle-man” in this case. Why not encourage people to do their own kind acts and send videos? They could be featured on the website, honored in some way by fandom, but something that doesn’t divert resources away from starving children or flood victims.

      I had a conversation this morning with a stranger. She saw the umbrella I was holding and asked if it was supposed to rain today. I relayed what I’d read in the weather report, we had a good laugh at the expense of weatherpeople, and we both walked away with smiles on our faces. Hopefully she does take that good-will and spreads it. What’s bullshit is the expectation that good-will has to be bought with a flower (I’m okay with the shoes and the mattresses, FWIW.)

      People should be more humane and generous to each other and I love that you’re encouraging it. I love that so many other fans have come here to share their opinions and their stories. You, my C-list idol friend, have a great power to do good, to unite people around a cause. All charities evolve and I hope you’ll continue to think of ways in which Random Acts can do the most good for the most number of people.

      Best,

      Lauren

    • I think there’s a miscommunication when it comes to the word “orphan.” A lot of orphans in the developing world have extended family that would be happy to care for them if they had the resources to do so.

      If the main priority is to feed hungry children, wouldn’t it be better to feed them in a way that doesn’t separate them from their families? Why not feed all the children, and not just the ones who live in orphanages? There are organizations that help grandmothers (and other family members) of orphans in some developing regions to be self sufficient so they don’t have to choose between feeding and living with their grandchildren.

      Some wealthy foreigners come up against this problem when they try to adopt. They discover that the children are unadoptable because they have family living in the area, family that cannot afford to raise the children on their own.

    • Hi! I found this post really funny. I found out about this on Twitter and I found your post really interesting (partly ‘cos of Misha, it’s true). :)

      • Although I don’t necessarily agree with what you sayabout Random Acts. I do think it’s a good idea. However, at least you have a well-constructed, relatively objective arguement.

  2. Hi,
    I’m not going to comment on all of this.

    However as one of the people involved in handing out flowers to strangers, I would just like to say a few words on that specific subject.

    Would the money that was spent on them have been better spent elsewhere? Possibly.
    Did it change peoples lives or cure all their problems? Of course not.
    Do I think it was a worthwhile thing to do? Yes, absolutely.

    Very little of what we did was actually in the video, but what we achieved that day was to make a few people happy. Yes, it was a temporary happiness, but does that make it any less valid?

    Our aim was to make a small gesture of kindness to a fellow human being.
    And if those people took the flowers home, put them in a vase and for the few days they lasted smiled a little when they looked at them, then we succeeded in what we set out to do.

    I make no apologies for that.

  3. In my eyes, any act of kindness is worthwhile whether random or not, and venting about the proper placement of kindness is missing the point.

    So much money is being spent in terrible ways, and I think those who actually want to use it for good are the last people we should be questioning and suggesting an even better use for it.

    If someone wants to buy me a drink out of kindness, I’m not going to suggest they put it in a charity box instead. Same principle.

    Every human being could be doing more to help good causes, and I think those who are already trying should be applauded and not face a barrage of suggestions as to how they should redirect their efforts.

    I completely agree in the exponential growth of kindness, and if Misha can inspire many people to give kindness more attention (as he has done for me) then I am with him 100%, and could care less whether my pledge is spent on orphanages or flowers as long as it is doing good in the world.

  4. Hi. I got directed here from tumblr, i dont even remember whose, but i’m glad you posted this up because you’re the fourth person I’ve heard that has had a response like this to Random Acts

    Ok first, i’m from Pakistan and am generally participating in sending Relief Funds to the flood vics, and trust me, there are a LOT of them. I just wanna say that no matter how small-scale this seems to you or anyone, it still matters a great deal to people who are sitting helpless, and who feel like there is no one in the world looking out for them. Even giving out flowers to these people gives them hope and i think, after physical aid, hope is the biggest asset a charity can give. And i love that there are people who are not in the least affected by things happening all the way over in Pakistan and still give a crap, want to send aid. Its a noble gesture, and it’ll take time to build up on it.

    I know Misha is far from famous enough to be able to make very significant changes, but i’m willing to stand up for what little change he CAN bring, it ALL counts.

    Random acts may be small-fry but i’m glad it exists.

  5. Hi Lauren,

    Although I do agree with you in general about charities that give bad aid, I disagree that Random Acts is one of these. You make a valid point about larger organisations being able to assess the problems of a community and having the greater resources to solve the issues within it. Charities like this are great, I agree. I’ve spent the last three years raising money for charities such as these. However, I’m of the opinion that every little helps. For example, Oxfam, a charity you have already mentioned, works extremely hard to provide disaster relief and is incredibly successful at what it does. It is also one of the world’s best known charities and has raised around 90 million dollars so far for Haiti disaster relief alone. They are now also focusing their efforts on Pakistan and one can assume from their incredible success rate with donations, they will raise a similar amount of aid.

    In the case of Haiti, Random Acts will be donating to three orphanages. This means, presumably, that the money (or a percentage of it) that would have come from Oxfam, or another big relief charity, to these orphanages will now go elsewhere into the community – as you say, big charities assess the needs of a community, and if Random Acts is providing for a certain aspect of it, that frees up a percentage of the money for other parts of the area. This is not to say Oxfam and the like will not donate money to these three orphanages. It is likely they will. But in the case of prioritising donations, it may mean they are free to give a little less money there, and a little more money to somewhere else. If Random Acts were the only charity providing relief for that area, I would agree with you, it would be bad aid. But it isn’t, so the funds raised by Random Acts can only help the larger charities that are already providing aid for the area.

    In the case of the ‘random acts of kindness’, I have to admit, when I saw the video of people handing out flowers, my nose felt a little out of joint. As lovely as it would be for someone to hand me a free flower, and as much has it would brighten up my day, and as much as I think every smile is valuable, it is admittedly not how I would choose my money to be spent. However, I kept watching the video and saw that flowers are not the only ‘random act of kindness’ that our money is spent on. Far from it. The two major examples I am referring to are the shoes for the little boy whose father had lost his job, and the new furniture for the elderly couple. I have an elderly friend, not a relative, who has no family of her own and most of her friends, including my nan, have sadly now died. My family and I spend as much time with her as we can, but as she lives several hours away, it is difficult. I remember when the council finally deigned to redecorate her flat in 2008, it was the highlight of several months. Her living room, for example, had not been redecorated since 1943. Seeing the happiness this provided, I can imagine that a similar appreciation was felt by the elderly couple Random Acts helped, and having been hit by the recession here in the UK and having 3 small children in the family, I also know how appreciative my family would have been if they had been saved just that little amount of money by not having to buy shoes. Acts like these cost more than flowers, so it is probably safe to assume that the 52 cents of the dollar did not get spent entirely on foliage.

    That said, I cannot completely dismiss the merit of handing out flowers. Small acts of kindness like this *do* cheer people up, and they do make people more inclined to pass on that generosity. They also promote the cause and make it more likely that more people will join Random Acts and donate, thus providing growth for the charity and more aid for our chosen beneficiaries.

    If Random Acts is looked at from a holistic point of view – such as Oxfam, Mercy and Save the Children look at communities – I cannot see how it could be construed in a negative fashion.

    … This was a longer response than I had intended, my apologies.

    • Hello Kim!

      Your response is long, but no need to apologize. I hadn’t intended to ramble for 1200 words myself, but there I went. Anyway.

      It’s impossible to know at this point whether Random Acts’ funding of orphanages would free up funding for other activities by other aid agencies. We don’t yet know how the aid workers on the ground will coordinate with other NGOs in Haiti or if they will, in fact, be duplicating the work of others. It’s why doing the proper needs assessment and speaking with potential beneficiaries is so important. That seems to be something done correctly on the “random acts” side, but less so on the international relief side. Where the boy and elderly couple have some choice in what aid they receive, there’s no similar collaboration–that I’ve seen–with the Haitian beneficiaries.

      It’s possible to do one thing–like deliver clean water, provide food, run orphanages–within a framework of providing for a community. A whole range of services and individual acts of kindness make up aid delivery, not just one targeted thing like orphanages. I see potential with Random Acts and it’s my hope that it will be harnessed.

      Thank you for your comment and sharing your story.

  6. Hi!
    Although I do understand why some people are sceptic about this project, I support Misha.
    What Misha does is a good thing. I think you have to start somewhere with help and his arguments sound reasonable to me.
    We might not change the world with what we are doing but we can help people. And with those random acts like giving someone a flower, we may brighten up someones day.

    @MelHerrmann

  7. I just want to add my voice wholeheartedly in support of the ‘random acts’ part of Random Acts. Yes, there are a million and one causes out there that we could support. We could also be giving money to cancer research or environmental causes for example.

    But do you know one of the biggest things that stops people from giving to charity? The reason countless millions of people in the modern world don’t give a percentage of their wages or a flat monthly donation to charities? It’s because they find it hard to care about issues that don’t directly affect them when at home they’re struggling to pay the rent, or dealing with screaming kids, or working in horrible jobs. Yes, we have it easy, and we should be eternally thankful for our lot in life. When I’m having a lousy day I try to tell myself it could be worse, but it’s really not that big of a help. The simple fact is, people don’t work that way. We’re naturally selfish, we put the wellbeing of ourselves and our families before others.

    There are so many problems in so many places in this world. And there are hundreds of big organisations working to solve them. We’re never going to be able to do the kind of things that UNICEF or Red Cross can do. But I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with giving a little bit of money toward the effort of making people smile, no matter where in the world they might be. So get off that soapbox, take a look around you, and tell me how you expect to make the world a better place if you don’t even approve of making the people in your own backyard a little happier. How do you expect people to give anything to strangers in another country when strangers in their own country won’t even give them a smile when they pass in the street?

    TL;DR: sometimes we get so invested in the big picture that we forget to look at the details. Random acts of kindness make the world a better place. A smile can be contagious, a good deed remembered and paid forward. Tell me, where’s the bad in that?

    • Hello Jemma, There’s no bad in a smile or good deed. In fact, this morning before I even had a chance to get on my soapbox, I had a random encounter with a stranger on the street. She noticed I had an umbrella in hand and asked if it was supposed to rain today. We had a laugh about weather forecasters and each of us left with a smile on our faces. It was a “random act” and it didn’t cost a thing.

      The thing about giving to charity, any charity, is that it does make us feel better. Altruism and selflessness are a bit selfish in that regard–we feel better because we’re making someone else feel better. We can make people in our neighborhoods feel better with a smile or brief conversation, all for free. We can make people in far-flung countries feel better with clean water, medical supplies, or two meals a day. This costs more, though, and is harder to do.

      In the “random” part of Random Acts, there seems to be a bit of choice among the beneficiaries. The kid chooses new shoes for himself, the couple chooses a bed and chairs. In the international focus, though, the beneficiaries don’t get to choose how they benefit. I think if we stick to the paradigm of “making people feel better,” Haitians might feel even better if they had a say in what they’re receiving.

  8. Interesting critique. In the first part, I found myself nodding and saying, “excellent point.” Thank you for the links to additional information to think about when choosing international charitable organizations. I was previously unaware of the orphanages in search of orphans and I find it a troubling unintended consequence. I can see why the inclusion of Haitian orphanages raised flags for you.

    I am less convinced by your arguments regarding non-international actions. I do not find a 15% for Pakistan flood victims vs. 52% spent on other projects a prima facie reason for rejection as Random Acts does not claim to be either an international relief organization or an international development group. I give to international groups such as Doctors Without Borders and Red Cross/Crescent for that. Just as I don’t fault those organizations for not spending enough money on animal causes that are dear to me; I give money to the ASPCA, Greenpeace, and my local dog rescue group for that. My questions for this group are the same as any other: 1) does this organization’s goals agree with mine, and 2) are they effective in achieving those goals?

    Random Acts seems to be about fostering an approach to life, one of giving happiness to fellow human beings. Sometimes because the need is dire, as in natural disasters. Sometimes because the need is personal, as in the bedding for an elderly couple and shoes for a growing boy. And sometimes because being kind to fellow human beings for the sake of having a positive interaction with a stranger is a win/win situation, as in giving flowers to strangers.

    Here is where I most disagree with your critique because you sidetracked an interesting, substantive discussion of responsibility and avoiding unintended consequences in disaster relief aid for a dig at a soft target. You belittle giving away flowers, which are undeniably ephemeral when compared to building community structure. They are not, however, analogous to your annual receipt of a flower from a business with whom you have a financial relationship. The point is to commit random acts of kindness based on the philosophy that kindness is not a zero sum game. That philosophy might not be your overriding principle in choosing your causes; to each her own.

    If the group were solely about handing out flowers I wouldn’t be particularly interested. But it is also about a growing boy receiving a new pair of shoes that he got to choose and an elderly couple receiving a comfortable mattress. Those acts coupled with the flowers and an awareness of the larger world intrigue me. I’m willing to listen to the pitch to see if I like the philosophy and if it’s one I can support. I’m willing to look into how it spends money and decide whether I think it’s acting in a way that accomplishes its stated goals.

    I think that you’ve given the organization some important feedback on approaching international disaster relief projects. Judging from Misha Collins’s reply above, I’d say he has previously considered at least some of the issues you raise.

    I think the group is aptly named. The goal is Random Acts; its philosophy of affecting the world around us through (mostly) individual kind actions probably won’t work for those who value high return on investment that can be achieved through larger, comprehensive projects. That’s a legitimate opinion but it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re doing it wrong.

    • You raise an interesting point about how we choose to give to organizations whose mission statements and goals are aligned with what we ourselves have decided are important issues to support. If Random Acts is about fostering a certain approach to life, the personal touch and human kindness, and I feel my dollars are better spent with Oxfam America or the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, such is my prerogative.

      I feel this way because at some level, all international relief is personal. There are individual aid workers out there providing school supplies to classrooms and solar radios to elders while I click a “Donate Now!” button that allows the aid work to continue. It seems that with Random Acts, the point is to narrow the gap between donors and aid deliverers, to put donors in touch with beneficiaries so they feel or see the positive interaction with a stranger. Random Acts and, to me, a large INGO like Oxfam are about the personal connection and fostering human kindness, but with Oxfam, I know the personal connections aid workers make in the field will be both random and ongoing. I know Oxfam will follow-up with the classes that got school supplies and the elderly couple, I know that the acts of kindness won’t necessarily be one-offs and could lead to an development, could lead to bringing someone out of poverty instead of simply giving them shoes.

      Which brings me to your point about Random Acts not claiming “to be either an international relief organization or an international development group.” As almost half of the funds they raise will be going to international relief projects, I feel they have represented themselves as an international relief organization even if they won’t be employing anyone on the ground. They still have a responsibility to donors to be transparent about how their money is spent and, more importantly, a responsibility to beneficiaries to ensure the work funded by Random Acts does more good than bad. I’m glad Misha is engaged because I do think he’s a smart guy (I mean, I’ve never interned at the White House and I’m a little jealous, not gonna lie.) Individual actions are important, every comprehensive project is made of individual actions, but it takes a coordinated effort to effect change and I worry that coordination is the exact opposite of “random.”

      Thank you again for your thoughtful comment and my apologies that it got stalled in the queue for moderation!

  9. Hi Lauren… like several other people here I’ve carried out aid work abroad. You make many good points in regard to how much more organized larger relief efforts can be.

    However, I have had to tell parents with dying children that the aid won’t arrive until “next week,” and have had to send them away to bury their children. A smaller grass-roots based set-up with less red tape can be just as effective as larger relief efforts because of its faster turnaround, even if it is on a much smaller scale, and I applaud Random Acts’ intentions and achievements.

    Saving the life of a single child is significant.

    • Hi Cody, Thanks for your comment. It hits close to home as a friend of mine who has been in Haiti for a while now just wrote about this very issue the other day, the gulf between the big picture stuff like aid effectiveness and the individual acts of relief. His story is here, if you get the chance.

      You’re right that saving the life of a single child is important. Each of us plays an individual role in individual lives, but international development is complex and interconnected. I’m going to paraphrase Alanna Shaikh here: a woman (in Uzebekistan, using Alanna’s example) can’t start a business or become an activist for human rights or do a lot of things if her child is sick. If her child is sick, she needs access to a health clinic, clean water, and protein-rich food sources. It’s a whole range of services and a slew of individual acts that make up aid delivery, not just one targeted thing like orphanages.

      With regard to red-tape and grassroots organizations, it’s my experience (and this is certainly something on which YMMV) that larger organizations have the money already in place so their turn around time in responding to disasters is much quicker than organizations that are just starting up with zero funds.

      Thank you again for your comment, I think you make an excellent point that we shouldn’t forget the importance of a single life. I think, though, that we can save many more individuals with a holistic approach to humanitarian relief.

  10. Dear sir,
    I read your post and I have to say your comment about giving to the big organisations who are better equipped and can help the whole community seems to make perfect sense. That just giving to 3 little orphanages makes no sense at all and can possibly do more harm than good. So maybe you are completely right, maybe Misha has got it all wrong! And yet please allow me to tell you a short story. In our local shopping centre there is a supermarket, a chemist, a cafe, a dentist, an MP’s local surgery and a little charity shop. This shop is associated with Nupo Camp in Tak province on the Tai/Burma border. It’s staff is dedicated to raising funds to give directly to the people working in this camp to help the people there. They also visit the camp often to report back on how our money is spent. The shop is full of pictures of the children and adults there. We in the community have a very special bond with those people and because of that we go that extra mile to raise much more that we would just giving to Oxfam, When one little girl needed £5000 pounds for an operation to remove a terrible growth on her nose we raised those funds in extra quick time, she had her op and we got to see her beautiful face once she had recovered. In my opinion it is that human touch that inspires a community to go above and beyond what they would have given had it been a nationwide appeal, although i know many people do also give when the call goes out. To see these children grow and read the reports back encourages and inspires us. Yes your point about people then giving up their children to give them a “better life” is valid. But surely the point is this, if small communities like mine “adopt” orphanages then surely the likes of Oxfam can concentrate their efforts to help the wider community so those parents do not think their only option is to give up their child. Why can’t we all work together to make somewhere like Haiti a better place to live?
    As for giving out flowers to random people in the street, along with the flower i should imagine there were smiles and a little conversation. To some it might have been their only smile, their only chance to talk to another human being that day or even that week. There are an awful lot of lonely people in this world and to think those flowers might have given someone just a few moments of joy makes the tiny amount of money spent worthwhile a thousand times over.
    I have been a minion for well over a year, and what Misha Collins has set up has inspired me and made me think of others instead of myself. I hope to be able to contribute in some small way. It will give this lonely person a purpose in her life!
    You are of course perfectly entitled to voice your opinion. But before you jump to condemn think for one moment if what Misha’s Random acts is able to achieve is to bring a little joy to someone‘s life, to give them a reason to smile and laugh, to make them in that moment realise they are worthwhile, that they do matter, then I for one applaud him. He will take over this world one random act of kindness at a time.
    I thank you for taking the time to read MY rant.

  11. The world needs big organizations, we wouldn’t survive long without them. But they were all small in the beginning. And even those that are still small make a huge difference.

    I’ve been on the receiving end of aid during very serious crises. I’ve been literally homeless and starving. It doesn’t matter how large or small the organization, or how great the amount of help they can give you, anything is better than nothing. And when you’re kicked out of your parents’ home, have no money, no friends you can turn to, and are hitchhiking across the country because you have no place to go… when a tiny homeless shelter funded by local money that can only give you a bed for a night, a meal, and possibly a new pair of shoes because yours have literally worn through from walking… well, it’s like a little bit of heaven. A stranger giving you a couple dollars because you look exhausted and desperate, then spending it on a loaf of bread because you haven’t eaten in three days. Those things are better than hoping you have the energy to keep walking through a strange town until you find a Salvation Army or something. And even when you do stay at one they’re not necessarily better organized or more helpful than the smaller places.

    Many years later, I lost my home to a fire and a local church I didn’t even go to gave me and my roommate clothes, furniture, and first month’s rent on a new place. The Red Cross also gave me supplies I needed for my free-lance work as a photo-retoucher, because the ink was not cheap. Big and small, both are necessary and should not be considered exclusive.

    You live through these things, you don’t ever forget them. And when (or if) you ever find yourself able to repay the world for helping you out, you give it back wherever you can, however you can. If it’s a quarter to someone in a store who doesn’t have quite enough to pay for their groceries, or giving bags of clothes to a local church that is making a trip down to New Orleans after Katrina, or holding a door open for an elderly person, or sending however much money you’ve got at the moment to Unicef when Haiti shatters, or smiling at a clerk who’s having a bad day and being snarky until you say something kind and they perk up and apologize for their behaviour, or following a celebrity who inspires people to join him in spreading aid and goodwill all around… You get the idea, I hope.

    I’m also quite sure Misha is smart enough to know that if something needs more help than he (or we) can provide, then that help will be summoned and not leave anyone to suffer.

  12. Hi,
    quite a while before the earthquake hit Haiti, a woman who used to live in my hometown had started to set up a hospital there. She came back once in a while to talk about her mission at one of our local schools and of course to raise funds.
    So, after the earthquake, she managed to inform the school that, while some of her co-workers had been injured and the hospital building had been damaged, she herself was okay. Her story could be found on the school homepage and made it into the local newspaper. Together with the number of her account and a plea for help.
    So I donated money knowing that it would go directly to those who were in need. Was I wrong there? Should I have sent the money to one of the big organisations? It certainly doesn’t feel that way to me.
    Don’t get me wrong. I understand that help needs to be organized to be efficient but can’t it sometimes be a little more personal? I’ve trusted that doctor and when Misha says he trusts his friend, I do, too. Call me naive if you want…

  13. Where I live, strangers still smile and say Good Morning! to you on the street. It seems like such a little thing, but it can carry you through the day. Especially when your days, and the days of your neighbors and friends are filled with throwing your flooded life out onto the sidewalk for the garbage men to come pick up.

    Most of us received some sort of government or charitable aid here 5 years ago. But nothing got me through the day more then the smiles and kindness of the people in our community. The stress is still here. Most of us here make little money, but we stay because we love our city and our community. Rebuilding is hard no matter what kind of dollar comes your way. It isn’t just the physical buildings that need help, its your mental well being, your soul.

    Oh the money helped considering I had no furniture or clothes and was living in a new neighborhood in a craphole apartment. And organizations like the Red Cross were amazing here. But at the end of the day, nothing beat a cold beer and a laugh with my neighbors. Or a simple card from an out of town friend saying “thinking of you.”

    And nothing beat the simple kindnesses I received from strangers in other cities when I was stuck and unable to come home. I try to pay that forward every day, even if all I have to give is a smile and a good morning.

    I see nothing wrong with working to spread that attitude around.

    Cat- New Orleans, LA

  14. I can see your argument about larger organisations having the infrastructure to handle the distribution of aid, but I want to offer a viewpoint from a smaller charity.

    I used to manage, and still volunteer for, a non-profit radio station and training organisation which aimed to increase the confidence and skill level of unemployed young people. It was also the local community radio station. We would apply for funding for our projects and costs, which was fine, but took a hell of a lot of time and skill in bid writing, as well as gathering data and trying to use commercial language to sell a benevolent project, which wasn’t easy.

    When we received cheques directly from people, it was fantastic. We could spend that money on the non-glamourous things that funders despise, like toilet paper and sandwiches for our students while they were learning with us. We could buy batteries for minidisc players, and paper for the printers.

    Even better was when people would notice that our equipment was old and battered and donate microphones and CD players, or even their time. These were technically random acts of kindness, just a human being realising that maybe they had something that someone else might benefit from.

    As the former begger-in-chief from a tiny weakling charity, I thank the heavens for people who will do little things, they add up to a hell of a lot.

  15. This is in response to your response to Misha, where you said: ” I question the need to raise money to do kind acts. It seems you’re actually creating the “middle-man” in this case. Why not encourage people to do their own kind acts and send videos? They could be featured on the website, honored in some way by fandom, but something that doesn’t divert resources away from starving children or flood victims.”

    I understand that you disagree with the fundamental purpose of Random Acts and that you think that the money raised would be better spent if it went somewhere else. And that’s fine. But it’s incredibly arrogant to tell the people involved with this charity how to spend their money because you don’t agree with their mission statement.

    Misha and Random Acts don’t owe you anything. If you don’t agree with this charity, don’t donate to it. Donate your money to a charity you feel is worthy. But don’t presume to tell a charity that they’re Doin It Rong simply because you would do it differently. (And if you do feel that way, start your own charity.)

    We all make a difference in our own way, and that should be encouraged, no matter if it’s dropping off clothes to Goodwill, supporting a local pet shelter, giving to a local food bank, giving a needy family a hot meal, donating money to the Pakistan Flood Fun, or giving strangers umbrellas. It ALL matters.

    • In which Brenda said
      ‘I understand that you disagree with the fundamental purpose of Random Acts and that you think that the money raised would be better spent if it went somewhere else. And that’s fine. But it’s incredibly arrogant to tell the people involved with this charity how to spend their money because you don’t agree with their mission statement.

      Misha and Random Acts don’t owe you anything. If you don’t agree with this charity, don’t donate to it. Donate your money to a charity you feel is worthy. But don’t presume to tell a charity that they’re Doin It Rong simply because you would do it differently. (And if you do feel that way, start your own charity.)’

      She hit the nail on the head. I also want to point out that there are people against even the largest of charities. I participate in the March for Babies yearly to raise money for March of Dimes premature birth research.

      I have a friend who EVERY year when I hit the $500 March goal freaks out because of March of Dime’s involvement with Planned Parenthood. And you know what, frankly i tell her exactly that ‘You don’t like it don’t donate but don’t you DARE tell me not to support a cause that is close to my heart’

      And I realize I’m not eloquent like some of these lovely repliers but I’ve been on the receiving act of some random kindness and let me tell you. When your kid has been throwing up for 48 hours straight, you are stressed and crying and sitting in the emergency room for hours upset and still waiting to see the doctor and someone brings you a cup of coffee. You want to bless them. It is something that restores your very faith in humanity. And maybe that $1.30 from the cafeteria would have been better used to send to some big charity. But to ‘me’ it was a lifesaver and it calmed me and still years later I remember that lady.

      Also I would like to point out to you that through Randoms Acts of Charity from people all over the world that I’ve never met I was able to buy my child a headstone. Now I realize to some people this is no big deal. But as the person who buried her child. This means the world to me. And I will be eternally grateful to these people who pulled together to help us. Even if they never do anything else kind in their lives. I have their names written down in a book and I will always remember them.

      Brenda is right it ALL matters and it IS important, no matter what other’s think

      • Disclaimer, I am an Internet friend of Lauren’s.

        I understand it hurts to see someone criticizing a cause based on a celebrity you’re fond of, but let’s not overstate the point here. Lauren is not only well within her rights to criticize how aid is best gathered and distributed, she does actually work in the field and has some qualifications from which to speak. So accusations of arrogance I think are misplaced.

        And the dialogue between her and Misha I think is mutually constructive and supportive. When people are in crisis it’s worth it to really consider every penny that’s raised as crucial, which is why there’s grounds for at least examining the allocation of funds raised here. And there is at least a philosophical argument about whether things like flower-distributing are really how money should be spent, especially when you really have a platform with which to raise said funds. In this case, I think the question being asked is: How can fandom’s energy best be harnessed both in terms of creative and monetary contributions? Lauren’s contention is that by raising money to do things like distributing flowers, Misha is not optimally using the opportunity he has. Suppose Random Acts did encourage people to do such things for free, *and* they raised money for relief efforts. Would that be more in the spirit of fandom, which is based around free sharing of creativity and information? And wouldn’t that free up more funds to be used elsewhere? Misha’s contention is that those funds are well used as they are, and the psychological impact of the flower distribution is worth the allocation. They have differing opinions.

        Both Lauren and I work inside the Beltway, and I think once you’re involved in that world it’s a little easier to have these political discussions and then step back and still be supportive of one another. There really is very little bad blood or anger going on here. It’s a discussion about allocation of resources, and it’s being held in what seems from my eye to be a really constructive way. To call into question the character of either of the people here, rather than just debating the ideas, is I think unfair to the spirit of the discussion.

        Which isn’t to say you can’t do it. You can. Just like I can ask you to reflect on it. Just as Lauren can ask Misha to reflect on his priorities. Just as he can ask her to reflect on her own critique. And who knows, maybe some insights will come out of it that will improve a) Random Acts, b) readers’ understanding of the larger issues surrounding aid programs, and c) the way celebrities use their stature to raise money responsibly for causes.

        Like I said, I am an Internet friend of Lauren’s, but I don’t work with her, and I have no beef with Misha (I’m a pretty damn huge fan myself), and quite frankly I don’t have the same problems with Random Acts that Lauren does – but I also don’t have the expertise. All I have expertise in is seeing how these discussions tend to trend. They’re good things, and in the best-case scenario, everyone comes out better for them. So let’s be positive. Not all conflict is inherently bad.

        [From laurenist: What can I say? I have eloquent friends! Had to approve this one.]

    • “But it’s incredibly arrogant to tell the people involved with this charity how to spend their money because you don’t agree with their mission statement.

      Misha and Random Acts don’t owe you anything. If you don’t agree with this charity, don’t donate to it. Donate your money to a charity you feel is worthy. But don’t presume to tell a charity that they’re Doin It Rong simply because you would do it differently. (And if you do feel that way, start your own charity.)”

      1) Everyone has a right to criticize a charity. She wasn’t the only one concerned in fandom, but she was probably the only one who wrote an article about it because the rest of us were too chicken to do it.

      2) If the people involved in a charity cause more bad than good, unknowingly or unthinkingly, as we can see it has happened in the video released by Misha, then they should be made aware of it, in the hopes that they choose more carefully their future projects while still remaining inside their mission statement. After all, we have a direct interest because it’s our money that is involved.

  16. Dear “Laurenist”, Misha, and all my fellow minion friends,

    I’m not going to write much. I won’t have to. This weekend will be the first time I will be doing charitable work for the RIGHT reason, and that is to help those who need it. Why? Because after watching that video about what Random Acts is doing and the impact it’s having in lives around the world, I was made aware of my own selfishness. I’ve never been selfish with money, but time I rarely share. That video struck something in me. Maybe it’s because I was a minion to begin with, and that I have succumbed to the inevitability of the awesomeness of Misha. Or maybe it was my realization that those “random acts of kindness” CAN and really DO make a difference in people’s lives. Maybe the impact is not big enough for CNN or BBC, or whatever, but I bet you it’s HUGE for them.

    So, this Saturday, I will be attending a Habitat for Humanity project here in Augusta, Georgia. I’ve done this many times before, with the intention of putting it on my evaluation report so that I can have that precious “Community Service” bullet filled in for the Navy. Now, that bullet can kiss my left and right butt cheek, because this time I will be doing it for the family that will get that house. God has blessed me so much and it’s time I gave back. For real.

    To Misha,

    You wrote “I believe that if people exercise kindness and generosity in their own communities, in their every-day interactions, that the recipients of those acts of kindness will, in turn, treat someone else in their lives more humanely and that in this way, good-will grows transitively and exponentially.”

    I write: I know now that this is true.

    To Laurenist,

    I write: Tsunami waves start out small, as almost imperceptible swells in the middle of a vast ocean. These little random acts…
    They can turn into a force of nature too.

  17. Thanks for your comment about the orphanages. I’d really like to see some of the money that’s spent on these kinds of orphanages reallocated to getting the extended family of the orphans in a situation where they could care for the children in their homes. It looks like some of the kids there have family in the area.

    I agree with Random Acts that meeting needs in your on community is admirable, even when those needs aren’t as dire as those in other areas, but I think you’re right to say that these things don’t need to be centrally funded. I’m not even sure how this would work. Are they going to have grant applications for giving out flowers?

  18. Hey all,

    I’m not gonna comment much and I hope I can get this written and it makes sense as my computer keys are sticking and so for that I apologize immensely, anyway here goes and I am really bearing down on these keys hoping every letter takes. First and foremost I have one sentence for the Random Acts group, ‘they are one of the best things that has ever happened to me!’ Let me explain, growing up I was dirt poor and had 7 siblings, being the 7th my parents were elderly and not in great health while my younger sister and I were still living at home. One year my father was ill and unable to work, it was nearing winter and let me tell you our home was so incredibly cold, we had thin walls and the windows were just protected by plastic bags that my father had placed to try to prevent as much of the winter air coming through that he could still we had ice to form on our kitchen floor and we at that time had to wear our shoes because the floor was ice and the rest of the house was cold. Now I don’t bring this up to talk about my childhood plight but rather to talk about those folks and strangers in my neighborhood who came to realize o.k. there are elderly parents trying to raise 2 young daughters in a home that was just barely standing on the top of a hill, those kind folks bought us blankets, they bought as an electric heater, they gave us food and helped my father as he recovered from his illness, these folks are my heroes. None of them came from a big organization, none of them were out for themselves, they were out to help a struggling family. Having these memories I really fought in school to get the degree I wanted so I could pull myself out of the situation and also I wanted to pull my famly out of it and there have been times even today I still struggle with those memories but now today I am in a position where I can help people out and random acts though small can create something mighty. It’s a ripple effect in my opinion, In the majority of people if someone does something good for you it makes you feel good and then you in turn want to go out and do something good for someone and so on and so on. I said earlier random acts was one of the best things that ever happened to me because it does make me want to be a better person. It does make me want to go out and find those in need and do something to make their lives earlier just as folks did for my family many years ago. Now I didn’t say much about big organizations. Don’t know everything that goes into running some of these organizations what I do know is when a person approaches me in kindness just wanting to lend a helping hand. Since becoming a member of random acts I do now on a daily basis look for what I can do to make someone else’s day a little easier, a little happier. I don’t know their problems and can’t make their problems go away but if I can make them feel good for awhile then I’m happy. Anyway I’ll get off here as I did write more then I intended and I also wanted to say I did not bring up my childhood upbringing to draw any attention. I simply brought it up to recognize those folks about my area who didn’t have any degrees, organizations or any non profits behind their names. They were just compassionate people. I praise Misha Collins and the random acts gang for their work and I only seeing it growing from here on out.

    Misha you and the random acts gang totally rock!!!!

  19. Hello,

    I want to say I respect your intelligence. You seem like a person of good character. I also agree with some of your points on small projects sometimes missing the follow through to make lasting change.

    However, I was lucky enough during my formative years to know the person who worked directly underneath Elizabeth Dole at the Red Cross during her tenure. It was during that time I learned that large organizations do not provide what they promise and their programs are just as broken as smaller projects.

    The only difference is they get more money to fix the projects they break in the first place. I really don’t know where to go from here but I disagree with the rest of your sentiments entirely. If people don’t start small projects and continue to grow and refine them we will only be left with the larger organizations that are broken, disorganized, and failing to meet the needs of those whom they promise to help and yet still receiving millions each year.

    I suppose this is all just a matter of what is a bad policy to one person and what is a preferable alternative to someone else.

    • Hi Vonnie,

      Just a few quick thoughts. Not all large organizations are created equal or operate the same way. You say that “their programs are just as broken as smaller projects.” So perhaps we can agree that both large organizations and small organizations get it wrong sometimes.

      Most organizations start small, it’s true. There’s nothing wrong with small organizations, but they’re hard to start, they’re hard to run, and they’re hard to keep going. Large organizations (one of the good ones, mind) have momentum, have the ability to spend money that comes in on a project already in motion rather than a project that’s still being planned.

      I love small organizations (the good ones.) They’re flexible, they’re dynamic, they have a lot of energy. But they can get things just as wrong as large organizations. We can’t excuse them from following best practices or from talking to beneficiaries about what they want simply because they’re small. I’ve advocated above for the simplest solution—raising money for a large organization—because starting and operating a small one takes a lot of work and a lot of time. Plenty of people have done it and done it well (Paul Farmer at Partners in Health comes to mind). If that’s what Random Acts seeks to do, that’s fine, but they’ll still have to move beyond good intentions to good practices.

      • Wow, you were so civil here and then you were mocking the replies on your twitter? What happened that you couldn’t say what you needed to directly to me? No need to be scared. I won’t bite you. Please do so now or don’t waste any of these people’s time pretending you want discourse when behind the scenes you don’t. Also at the very least keep the snarkiness to one twitter account not two. It looks rather petty to be talking about these people where they can’t reply. If you have something to say, then say it.

      • Hello again Vonnie,

        I have a lot of respect for the people whose comments appear on this blog. I think I’ve said that in many places—here, on my Twitter, on LJ. I have less respect for the the people who have resorted to ad hominem attacks whose comments are only on blogs that link here or whose comments remain in the moderation queue because they would add little to the discussion. People who resort to calling me names because they disagree with my opinion on how kindness should be shared are, I think, missing the point of random acts of kindness altogether. They deserve to have their logical fallacies pointed out. When I do that, it usually ends in snark.

        I’ll assume you don’t mean the mocking of the name-callers, though. I’ll say what I said on Twitter: in my experience, few comments that are couched in “You seem well meaning” ever end well for the well-meaning person. See: my original blog post, for one. This doesn’t make the comments bad, it makes the person the comment is addressed to brace themselves while Tweeting on the Metro. Finally, neither me nor my blogger friends would consider ourselves experts on much of anything. We cross link to provide multiple examples about whichever point we’re trying to make as with the orphanages. Anecdotes are not evidence.

        If you have further concerns, please e-mail me: at.laurenist@gmail.com.

  20. Anyone seriously paying attention over the past 15 years knows that orphanages are a bad idea. Straight up, plain and simple. They are ineffective, inefficient, suck resources from clueless donors in more wealthy countries, and more often than not produce young adults poorly equipped to be productive citizens when they leave. That’s the best case scenario, by the way.

    In Haiti in particular, orphanages are typically not orphanages at all, but rather foreign (most commonly missionary) run boarding schools whose students almost always have one or more parents still living: they are called “orphanages” precisely because calling them that enables the foreigners (missionaries) to raise money for support back home… money that they very likely would not be able to raise if they told people they were just running a boarding school.

    So, Misha – it’s doesn’t really matter all that much who meant what by doing what, or who’s spent time living where, or what the overhead rate was (“overhead” is a bankrupt conversation in the aid world anyway – good aid costs what it costs. Sometimes it’s very expensive). Despite your best intentions, by supporting orphanages, you’re supporting bad aid. Full stop.

  21. To Lauren, Misha and everyone else who has posted…

    I just would like to say Thank You for your wonderfully & eloquently written arguments. I’m not personally involved in the day-to-day running of a charity so I don’t know the right (or the wrong way) to do it and your discussions have been an eye opener for me.

    Reading these discussions, I find myself agreeing and disagreeing to some points from Lauren, from Misha and from others too. Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinions and I felt like I learned a lot from reading these and there seems to be much more to think about.

    So again just want to say thank you and hope a lot of goods will come out from this discussions (who knows maybe someday Lauren might find herself talking directly to Misha or others who run Random Act and make it a more efficient charity organisation that can help the world)

    Nathalia

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  25. You make some good points, but Misha’s answer covers me. Still, I have my own problems (environment- and ethics-related) with the selection of the particular random acts we saw in the video, so even though I support Misha’s right to use his fame any way he wants, and I’ll definitely cheer for him on the day he runs, I’ve decided not to donate. I’ll use the money to buy food for the poor mother I usually see outside the bakery, instead.

  26. In 2009, the population of Haiti was estimated to be 10 million. Many of the largest NGOs have been operating there for double-digit years, and have received billions of dollars from individuals, foundations and governments in order to stay there. Since they have received much more than one billion dollars per person in the population, why do farmers still not have tractors? Why do so many children still have red hair, extended bellies, and high mortality rates from malnutrition? Why haven’t more funds been used to help individuals start small businesses throughout the country that could keep people in their hometowns instead of forcing them to cities to find work? My questions could go on and on, but you probably get my drift. I can count on one hand the number of nonprofits in Haiti who actually have made a big, positive difference.

    Feeding someone just enough to keep them from starving, but not from thriving, is not quality aid, it is prolonging misery and fostering dependence. So spare me the warm, fuzzy PR and speeches about planning for the long-term. The long-term has come and gone several times.

    I won’t even go into the current situation. Suffice it to say the living conditions of the people in the IDP camps eight months after the earthquake are a direct result of the failure of the big NGO’s so-called long-term planning.

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