Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Carlos and Katrina

Yesterday, while waiting for a board meeting to begin in the offices of El Rescate, I had a nice conversation with a man named Carlos. Carlos works with Comunidades, an organization of Salvadoran immigrants who fund development projects in their hometowns back in El Salvador. With considerable pride, Carlos told me about the school that had been established in his hometown of Cacaopera to teach people to make clothes for export. Fifteen sewing machines costing $120 each, he said, have been purchased in an effort to provide job opportunities for some of the people in the community.

Carlos was obviously a man with a big heart, but even knowing that, I wasn't prepared for what he told me about Comunidades' current project. Comunidades is now raising money to donate to the relief effort in New Orleans. Even though El Salvador is among the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, even though it suffered through a decade-long civil war, and even though it has suffered major devastation from earthquakes and hurricanes in recent years, Salvadorans in Los Angeles are turning their attention from the needs of their own hometowns to the needs of Americans along the Gulf Coast. I couldn't help but think of the widow's mite--and the dissatisfaction Christ expressed with those who have so much but give so little.

In answer to the question I posed in yesterday's post, the United States gives a little over 0.1 percent (0.16 percent, to be precise) of gross domestic income in official development assistance each year--a penny, a nickel, and a dime for every $100 of national income.