Bush: Tsunami Relief Effort Should be Extra Help

President George W. Bush met with leaders from two dozen NGOs, including several Christian non profits, and members of USAID to thank them for their ongoing service to the tsunami battered community in South Asia. Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Building near the White House, Bush stressed the need to continue giving to NGOs for relief efforts outside of Asia as well, since the tsunami effort should be viewed as “extra help.”

“A little more than two weeks ago, the world witnessed one of the worst displays of natural destruction in history. Since that time, the world has witnessed one of history's greatest displays of compassion,” Bush began, Monday, January 10, 2005.

Although much of the focus was placed on USAID, the largest organization delivering food, shelter and assistance, the President also acknowledged the works of the faith-based organizations.

“The NGOs, including our faith-based organizations, had been working in these regions for decades,” said Bush. “As the head of the NGO or the representative of the NGO, spoke -- said, "Well, Mr. President, we have been there for 30 or 40 years." And as a result of having been there, there's an infrastructure in place, which is good news for those who need help.”

Bush also noted that the coordination between the governments and the NGOs has been “suburb.”

“Not only are these people, the NGOs, expressing the world's concern, the cooperation between our government and the NGOs have been superb. And that's important. It is important because we don't want to have a duplication of effort,” he said.

Bush stressed that giving to the tsunami relief effort must continue since the recovery from the disaster will likely take years. He also responded to the concerns of charitable groups, who worried that the outpouring of private funds to the tsunami effort might hurt donations to other relief efforts, by asking Americans not to “shortchange” the poor.”

"It is essential that your contribution not replace the ongoing contributions you're making to help the NGO's of America,” said Bush. "You should view the tsunami relief effort as extra help."

At that light, Bush reminded the American public that their donations to the tsunami effort will be tax deductible.

“And, as well, hopefully the legislation I sign that will allow taxpayers to deduct this month's contribution for tsunami relief from your 2004 tax returns is further incentive, kind of a little kick to the heart,” said Bush.

Meanwhile, the heads of Christian NGOs who attended the briefing, returned the thanks to Bush by encouraging his work.

"The President thanked our organizations for the unprecedented humanitarian relief and recovery work to aid tsunami victims in South Asia. He said our organizations are fulfilling a vital role. He underscored the importance of directing and tracking donated monies to help tsunami victims. He also encouraged us to tell our supporters to give above and beyond their ongoing contributions to places of need in the world, like Sudan and Afghanistan,” stated Paul Kennel, President of the Seattle-based World Concern.

"At the meeting, I personally thanked the President for his leadership," said Kennel. "I told him I agreed with him that the unprecedented work of so many good relief and development agencies represented a massive, uninterrupted outpouring from the heart of the American people."

Kathryn Wolford, president of Lutheran World Relief, said she believed the briefing was very successful.

"One of the most exciting things about the meeting was that everyone involved agreed on a few key things we consider critical to our work," commented Wolford. "First that we all must commit ourselves to long-term efforts in the areas affected by the tsunami. Second, that money given by governments, corporations and individuals to tsunami efforts shouldn't come at the expense of other needs and other gifts. And, third, that we cannot and must not forget the many other disasters and conflicts occurring around the world."

Other Christian groups in attendance included World Vision, Northwest Medical Teams and Mercy Corps. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and USAID Administrator, Andrew S. Natsios also joined the President at the briefing.

Contributions to aid tsunami victims through World Concern can be made by calling 800-755-5022, online at www.worldconcern.org, or by mail: World Concern, 19303 Fremont Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98133.

Contribution to Lutheran World Relief can be made by visiting http://www.lwr.org or by calling 1-800-LWR-LWR-2.