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Column: After the Earthquake23 January 2009 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
Last year Madonna experienced enormous problems in the process of adopting Chifundo ‘Mercy’ James. The Malawi adoption law states that adoptive parents have to be resident for 18 to 24 months. Eventually, on appeal, the adoption was granted. What’s more, it transpired that Madonna funded a new hospital and school in Malawi.
Immediately there were complaints from the media about Madonna having received preferential treatment based on her celebrity status. I am of the opinion that all adoptive parents should get preferential treatment, but at least in this case it was given to one parent.
Now look at Haiti, before the earthquake this country was home to 180,000 orphans. Last Thursday it was suddenly possible to bring 106 orphans into The Netherlands by speeding up the usual paperwork.
So it takes an earthquake to deal with the plight of orphans. Some of the adoptive parents and orphans had been waiting for their reunion for up to two years.
Most political parties in The Netherlands have a very tough policy against immigration, especially in relation to people from Turkey or Morocco. They do not like to see families from these countries being reunited in The Netherlands. Looking for or bringing in a bride from your home country, too, has been thwarted recently by an abundance of new laws.
And yet those 106 children were allowed to enter without a fuss. Fortunately they were admitted and I hope something is done for the remainder of those 180,000 orphans, this number I am sure has now grown by several tens of thousands.
In The Netherlands, Thursday 21st January was the day the big appeal was launched. It started on the radio, suddenly they introduced items like this one: ‘The Bed Time Superstore in Breukelen (small provincial town) is appalled by the disaster and offers her sympathy to the people of Haiti. When you buy one of our deluxe double beds, 10% is contributed to the Haiti Disaster Fund.’
A godsend for The Bed Time Superstore in Breukelen, without the earthquake advertising would have been a lot more expensive.
During the benefit event on television Carice van Houten (a well known Dutch actress) appeared together with Kane (well known Dutch band). Carice, who is our most recognised actress outside the country, had tears in her eyes and what’s more she could actually sing!
She sang so well, that a thought crept into my mind: this could be her breakthrough and an offer to star in a big screen musical may well be imminent. So that later when asked: ‘How did it all start?’, Carice will be able to give the truthful answer: ‘With an earthquake.’
The telephone desks that took people’s donations were manned exclusively by Famous Dutchmen (and women). If you haven’t been asked to take part, I’m afraid you do not qualify as a Famous Dutchman (or woman).
A very amusing situation occurred when Princess Margriet (sister of The Queen) answered the telephone: ‘And your name is?’ she asked. ‘Prince?’ she asked surprised when she noted down the name. That’s of course a bit of a surprise if you belong to a family that doesn’t pay any tax.
Don’t take me wrong, it is absolutely wonderful that we managed to collect 83 million Euros for Haiti in just one evening. However we shouldn’t forget that one in six people cannot count on a daily meal. It just so happens, that Haiti is one of the countries who have been struggling with this problem for quite a few decennia.
Nowadays The Netherlands is not a hospitable country; our borders are closed for people who want to seek refuge for purely economical reasons. This has suddenly changed and I agree the aftermath of an earthquake is a very good reason, but so is dying because of lack of food.
About this last issue I haven’t heard a thing from the Bed Time Superstore in Breukelen, the Famous Dutchmen (and women) and the Dutch political parties.
Joining and contributing to one of the TV Appeals puts our mind at rest just for now and helps to suppress our own culpability. You can also come across this behaviour in an office environment. Suddenly it has been decided: ‘Come on guys let's all grow a moustache, it’s for a good cause.’
Before you know it you’re on the company website together with fifteen grinning moustached colleagues plus the message that we’ll donate 150 Euros to the Haiti Appeal fund once we have removed the growth on our upper lips. Yes you have been volunteered, so have pity for the man who doesn’t want to join in.
Can’t we do something more lasting? I suggest we do not cut back on aid to the developing countries but instead increase the budget. It will be interesting to see if this gets the approval of men with charity-inspired moustaches and politicians.
What about my personal contribution? I am just a poor, jobbing writer. Luckily, my lovely 85 year old mother is still very alive so I am just a half-orphan. But still, maybe Madonna would be interested in adopting me just in case?
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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