Santa Barbara- S County

Direct Relief nears one year mark in humanitarian aid to help with border crisis

CEO:'We do everything we can to help'

Direct Relief nears one year mark in humanitarian aid to help with border crisis

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Help for those impacted by the humanitarian crisis at the border is coming from Santa Barbara-based Direct Relief and for the most part, it has been coming quietly for nearly a year in the form of cash.

Thomas Tighe, President and CEO of Direct Relief, said the first calls for help came back in August from border town in Texas where staff and volunteers with medical clinics and other agencies were overwhelmed and unprepared at detention sites.

The nonprofit humanitarian medical organization was contacted out of concern for separated families -- especially the children.

"We probably put about, committed an initial $150,000 dollars just because it was a compelling humanitarian crisis," Tighe said.

Direct Relief was contacted again in November when the crisis spread into San Diego. Tighe saw the processing facilities first-hand when he traveled south with a local support group.

"There's no question that conditions are tough," Tighe told reporter Beth Farnsworth and videographer Joyce Roberson. "People are in tough shape. And there will be longer term consequences because of this level of really traumatic injury, as the experts have told us."

Traumatic injury linked to babies, toddlers and children taken from their parents and in many cases, placed with complete strangers. Some for days, some longer. Tighe and his team have been told by experts that they are anticipating long-term, psychological impacts.

Tighe said Direct Relief is giving help in the form of cash, up to $400,000 dollars since last summer.

"When groups in the United States that we know well and are asking for help for something they're not getting funding for, we do everything we can to help," Tighe said.

Tighe said it has been unusual for the local nonprofit to do this in California and in the United States. He also said that New Mexico has also asked for help with the border crisis.

"We didn't anticipate it, we didn't plan for it, we don't have programs for it. And it's not something that we went out and did fundraising for," Tighe said. "We just thought that might inject us into a controversy that was not ours in the making and we wanted no part of. So, we did it quietly and we're still doing it quietly."

The money is coming from Direct Relief's discretionary funds.

Tighe acknowledged that critics have targeted the nonprofit in the past, including its help with the 805 UndocuFund following the Thomas Fire and Montecito mudflow. However, he stands firm that the humanitarian organization will do what it can to help people in need, wherever they are.

"I think for Direct Relief, after 71 years, you know we're not going to change our stripes," Tighe said. "We're going to continue to do what we do for the reasons we've always done it. We leave the politickin' and advocacy yellin' at each other to other people. And there's plenty of it going around."

To make a donation or to learn more information about Direct Relief, click the following link:


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