Following the 2004 Southeast Asia tsunami, I was sent back to Thailand. I’d been a Peace Corps volunteer there in the late ’90’s and can both speak and read Thai. My assignment was to work in a government district office (like a county but also includes all the towns and cities) to try help coordinate all the aid flooding into the area – often called “The Second Tsunami.”
It was the Wild West all over again. During my four years in Thailand, I saw the best and the worst of aid. I saw houses built on land without titles, once the charity went home the government was left to figure out whether the owner could evict in one case the people were kicked out of their new houses when the landlord fought it in court. I heard the frustration when one charity just finished constructing toilets for a school just before another charity tore them down so they could build a larger school instead. I saw boats sink during the handing over ceremony. I saw one village with 34 charities competing to lead projects while another similarly sized village just 10 kilometers received only the barest assistance. I saw failed livelihood projects where the people were left with products they could not sell. I saw project evaluations ignored when the powers that be didn’t like the findings. And the list goes on and on.
The people in the temporary camps felt pretty helpless to find the assistance they needed. The nonprofits did a poor job of keeping them informed and if they lived in a hard to reach area, far fewer nonprofits came by to check on them.
It was just crazy. So I started to investigate how to solve this problem. Obviously, the first solution was to set some decent standards. T