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Wall Street Greed? Not in This Neighborhood.

Kamlesh Saha, center, and Bindu Gupta, right, are new neighbors in the Bhalaswa neighborhood on the outskirts of New Delhi. Both express pride in their simple new homes built with the help of donations from Lehman Brothers.
Kamlesh Saha, center, and Bindu Gupta, right, are new neighbors in the Bhalaswa neighborhood on the outskirts of New Delhi. Both express pride in their simple new homes built with the help of donations from Lehman Brothers. (By Ria Sen -- The Washington Post)
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Corporate donors and foundations might be left with a greater burden, even as their ability and interest sinks.

The U.S.-based Concern Worldwide has struggled to raise government funds to help 1 million Chadians trapped in the cross-border conflict spreading from neighboring Darfur.

In the end, Arnold said, the group was able to find private supporters. About $4 million from corporate and private donors funded 36 projects in impoverished countries such as Haiti, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. The money was used to build schools and health clinics, and to help those displaced by conflicts that often don't get much coverage on American television, he said.

"It just shows the enormous importance of private and corporate donors for our emergency response work," Arnold said. "We need to brace ourselves for some choppy waters. In the U.S., many will suffer and many might well become poor as a result of the crisis. But the people in our care live in a whole other dimension of poverty."

U.S. corporations helped pay for rescue efforts during the recent flooding in Bihar, an impoverished state in eastern India.

Donations from Target, Coca-Cola, and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation helped fund efforts to reunite tens of thousands of parents with their children who went missing during the floods. Clothing and hygiene kits were also distributed, and temporary schools were put up for those in camps, said Thomas Chandy, head of Save the Children in India.

"That is what the money can do. The impact of the American economic meltdown will be experienced everywhere, and India is no exception," Chandy said. He said he is looking to alternative sources such as governments in oil-rich countries or wealthy individual philanthropists.

In Bhalaswa, the houses were unveiled on the day Fuld, the former Lehman Brothers chief executive, was questioned by a House committee about his failure to rein in risky investments while raking in millions of dollars in bonuses for himself.

"It's one tiny housing story Lehman got right -- in Delhi's backyard," read a front-page headline in the Indian Express newspaper.

Many Bhalaswa residents are migrant workers from poor states. They came to New Delhi in search of economic opportunity and were evicted from one of the oldest slums in the city, a vast encampment alongside the polluted Yamuna River. In Bhalaswa, they initially found a congested maze of shantytowns surrounded by a landfill, picked over by cattle, pigs and crows. There was no access to clean latrines or electricity. Some slept under mosquito nets on the ground.

"The struggle to get a roof over my head has been a long and hard one," said a smiling Bindu Gupta, 38, who has six children. She cracked a coconut on her new doorstep in an Indian tradition to mark an auspicious beginning. "Now my life has greatly improved," Gupta said. "I have cleaner food and water in my home. I'm so proud I will call over my friends for tea and meals. I can't believe that I have my own toilet."

The families were asked to contribute $170 for the construction of their homes, and many saved all year and pooled funds.

Kamlesh Saha, a 35-year-old mother of three, said that during the monsoon season her old makeshift shelter was submerged in floodwaters.

"Now, when I see my new house, I feel great joy and pride," said Saha, adding that she didn't know who Fuld or the Lehman Brothers were -- but thanking them anyway.

Special correspondent Ria Sen contributed to this report.


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