By Daniel Reynolds
When Norman Bier, a software developer from Pittsburgh, Pa., heard a National Public Radio broadcast about Amnesty International’s report Maze of Injustice, it was the numbers that struck him: Native American and Alaska Native women are more than two and one-half times more likely to be raped than the rest of the U.S. female population.
Recalling his reaction, Bier said, I heard those numbers and thought, "What if? What if that was a woman I knew, a friend, a loved one . . . ?" He also learned that the Pretty Bird Woman House, a women’s shelter serving the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, was out of funding and would soon close.
The success of a local online fundraiser inspired Bier to create a "ChipIn" account, an online donation Web site for the Pretty Bird Woman House. After speaking to Georgia Little Shield, the shelter’s director, Bier posted a goal of $25,000 to sustain the house and its resources until additional aid became available.
"I told Georgia, ‘I can’t promise that much, but at the very least we’ll raise a few hundred.’ She told me $300 would be enough to keep their phones on."
As a contributor to the popular political blog Daily Kos, Bier spread the word about the AI report to the online community and kept a detailed journal of the fundraiser’s progress. More than 70 blogs posted about the plight of Pretty Bird and directed its readers to Bier’s site. The Web site raised $11,000 before the first weekend was over and $27,000 in less than two weeks. The shelter also received dozens of checks by mail, bringing the total to more than $35,000.
Many contributors left warm messages of support. "Wish I could do more," wrote one. "We need more, not less, of this kindness," wrote another. Bier describes his fundraising experience as both shocking and uplifting, one that ultimately renewed his faith in human kindness.
"Sometimes this world and the people in it are even better than you can hope for," he said