A Year of Disasters, When Volunteers were the Heroes

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As governments falter in the face of a series of major natural disasters, a pioneering woman creates a new charity to ‘fill the gaps.’ Among the lessons of the year 2005 may be the observation that as governments and international agencies faltered in the face of a series of major natural disasters, small volunteer groups turned out to be the heroes of the hour. This is the story of one of them – begun by Gerry Moline, an American woman who rolled up her sleeves and started a new charity designed to “fill the gaps” between global funding and local needs.

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From Katrina to Kashmir, from Bam to Banda Aceh, natural disasters continue to spotlight organizational failures and human tragedies around the globe. As we approach the first anniversary of the Tsunami that engulfed the Indian Ocean, its impact is still being felt in Sri Lanka, a country hit by both tidal waves and a ferocious on-going civil war, while a large part of the relief budget has yet to be applied.

Gerry Moline, an American woman living in London chose to redeploy her consultancy skills at her own expense and in service of the goal of helping destitute villagers reorganize their lives in the aftermath of calamity.

While well-intentioned foreigners who lack technical skills, disaster experience or cultural awareness can often simply hamper relief efforts, Gerry Moline’s impromptu team succeeded in creating tangible results for survivors of the Tsunami that larger agencies still have not achieved.

Fill the Gaps, the charity Gerry Moline created, offers a way to channel the compassion and good-will felt by many to those in most need, with few delays and a minimum of bureaucratic impediment.

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Bruce Mulkey

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