By, Kevin Pham
Category 5 Hurricane Irma swept through the majority of Florida, leaving destroyed homes and property in its wake. As the demand for aid increases, the American Red Cross has sent volunteers to aid disaster relief. Despite good intentions, the Red Cross has a history of unaccountability when it comes to utilizing donated funds. In order to restore their reputation as a credible non-profit organization, the American Red Cross must rectify their past mistakes. Unfortunately for the Red Cross, it will have to work extremely hard to win back the people’s trust. From the Washington Post to the New York Times, news and online sources are urging people to donate to other independent and local charities instead of Red Cross for Irma recovery efforts.
Since its founding in 1881, the Red Cross has been known for its Disaster Responder Program. Despite being non-profit, this organization seems to be profiting from the donated money of hard-working Americans. The association was harshly criticized by the media in 2010 when it failed to account for how it spent $448 million of donated money for the Haiti Earthquake recovery efforts. In a joint investigation in 2015, writers Justin Elliott and Laura Sullivan for Pro-Publica and National Public Radio (NPR), respectively, stated, “The Red Cross
says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of
permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.” Chuck Grassley, a U.S. senator from the state of Iowa, ran an inquiry that found that the Red Cross spent $123.9 million on management, advertising, and fundraising.
The other three-quarters of the donations went towards hiring other organizations to help with disaster relief. It is irresponsible of the Red Cross to spend donated money on internal assets without informing the public. This creates suspicion surrounding the transparency of the organization. In 2012, ProPublica and NPR once again investigated the Red Cross contributions to the Hurricane Sandy and Isaac recovery projects. This time, the Red Cross initiated many recovery projects, but a majority of them were terminated as a result of poorly constructed, unusable buildings.
Red Cross aid vehicle driver Jim Dunham stated that his Red Cross supervisors ordered the deployment of dozens of disaster relief trucks “just to be seen.” These emergency vehicles, made for the purpose of providing relief, were taken away from their posts to appear on news stations to serve as a background setting, which angered many disaster responders who were actually trying to help the victims of Sandy and Isaac. The Red Cross is essentially ruining its public image by attempting to better it. Instead of putting in the work they wish to be recognized for, the Red Cross is putting work into giving the organization a better image. By removing emergency help from areas effected by natural disaster, the Red Cross placed many individuals in dire
need of medical assistance and vulnerable to illness in potential harm.
The Red Cross needs to admit to its mistakes in order to uphold their reputation of helping those in need. The organization must make a valiant effort to regain the trust it has lost. To do so, the Red Cross must uphold the transparency of the non-profit organization and provide genuine contributions towards disaster relief worldwide, as promised by the organization’s mission statement. The world has been experiencing a lot of natural hardship lately, the American Red Cross should start a new mission to rebuild its reputation of service and relief to those in crisis.