March 4th, 2010 | by Ray Offenheiser
The Rev. Jean-Jacques Frederic helped organize a camp for displaced people.
Raymond C. Offenheiser, Oxfam America’s president, recounts his impressions of the ravaged Haitian capital after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the city leaving 230,000 people dead and more than one million others homeless.
I arrived in Port-au-Prince on the one-month anniversary of the ghastly earthquake that rocked Haiti to its core. The airport was hectic, full of UN officials, aid workers and military personnel frantically working to move goods and people, struggling to coordinate and manage their own stress in face of the monumental task that confronted them.
As we left the airport, the scale of the tragedy unfolded: block after block of collapsed buildings and 500,000 people living in ramshackle shelters. Some had tents. Some had the familiar blue sheeting, and others had nothing more than bed sheets. Disposable cups, plastic bags and every other kind of trash formed piles on the perimeter as overtaxed sanitation workers tried to manage the exploding scale of this human refuse.
Much of this story has been told, but I was privileged to witness a new beginning. An effort by an entire nation to confront and accept an unspeakable level of grief. Read the rest of this entry »
August 28th, 2009 | by Ray Offenheiser
Yesterday, the body of U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy was transported to Boston for a public memorial at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. All day, the doors of the library have stood open to mourners. Some of our own staff have headed down from our Boston headquarters this evening to the library to pay their respects as well.
Oxfam’s Raymond C. Offenheiser listens as the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy speaks at an event in Washington, DC, in February 2006. Photo by Christopher O. Banks
Today marks a sad day for those in Boston and for the nation.
For those of us who have spent decades working on human rights—whatever our political leanings—Senator Kennedy was an institution. We always knew where he stood. We could always count on his office to take on the tough request, to tackle the thorniest issues, to champion the most controversial issue. As one of the few organizations to express concern about the invasion of Iraq and the humanitarian catastrophe that followed, we were strengthened by Senator Kennedy’s leadership on this issue.
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August 25th, 2009 | by Ray Offenheiser
Just writing a personal note today to convey our deepest sympathies to the Refugees International staff at the loss of their president Ken Bacon.
I recently joined Ken for a meeting with Richard Holbrooke where Ken spoke with his characteristic passion and conviction about the importance of development aid that is designed for and with the same people who will benefit from the aid. At the time we spoke briefly about his illness, his smile and humor masked what was a much more serious prognosis.
It’s been great having Ken as a colleague and friend in our field for these last years. I have always felt that we could count on Ken and RI to take courageous stands and do it with grace, sophistication and yet toughness. We have appreciated those moments when it has been possible to collaborate on an op-ed or a high level meeting. Ken has always made the inter-institutional collaboration a pure pleasure.
I was delighted and touched to hear the wonderful eulogy that Scott Simon did this Saturday on Weekend Edition. It summed up Ken’s life beautifully. And his message and farewell to all of us was vintage Ken. We all, particularly those of us in the humanitarian field, need to take his message of hope and carry it with us close to our hearts every day.
We will all miss Ken’s presence, his generosity of spirit, and his commitment to the values that we seek to represent every day.