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Saturday, September 25, 2004

Helping the Victims of Beslan

The terrorist attack on the school in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia left behind a wide path of destruction. About 350 people were killed, and hundreds if not thousands of families had suffered casualties. Many families now face years of caring for their injured loved ones; for many of them, rehabilitation, both physical and psychological, will be a long and uncertain road.

Many groups and organizations have since started various initiatives striving to help the victims. Some of them have been more effective than others. According to various news reports, the actual disbursement of funds have been slow in coming, especially from the funds provided by various Russian governmental bureaucracies. As is almost universally the case in such situations, many victims of this tragedy are not receiving the necessary aid exactly at the time they need it most. The general bureaucratic confusion and foot-dragging are most often the reason.

A group of teachers and parents who either were held hostage at School #1 themselves, or who had children held hostage, have set up this website in an attempt to inform the world of their plight and seek assistance for the victims of this tragedy. These are people who for the most part know those in need of help personally. A good friend of mine in St. Petersburg, Russia has a business partner whom he fully trusts on this matter in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, which is about 25 km from Beslan. That man had traveled there, spoke with the organizers of this initiative and believes they can be fully trusted. Given that somebody who has my absolute confidence is vouching for this group, I consider them the best conduit for delivering aid to the victims of Beslan.

Their website is part-Russian, part-English. The caption on top of the homepage reads,
We shall never forget what befell our children on 1 September. He who did this is forever condemned. He who is indifferent to this is inhumane. He who comes to our aid is forever our friend.
This appeal contains instructions on how funds can be sent to the victims. While I believe there will be no loss once the funds are received in Russia, the transfer methods suggested are rather expensive (for instance, it costs about USD15 to send USD100 via Western Union, a steep fee of 15%). I am currently looking for a way to minimize transfer expenses and will likely post if I succeed in that. Feel free to contact me with any and all questions about helping the victims of this terrible tragedy.

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