As natural disasters increase in frequency, we all express our deepest concern and compassion to all those affected, but sometimes that doesn’t feel like enough. Many of our Global Network affiliates and partners have mobilized to provide critical disaster relief services in many disasters, from emergency housing assistance to food and supply distribution.
Individuals throughout the nation and across the globe are searching for ways they can help support these relief efforts. Below we’ve included some tips for how you can maximize your contributions, provide help where it’s needed and keep from hindering the necessary emergency services in motion right now.
Points of Light’s Civic Circle offers a holistic framework to help businesses, nonprofits and individuals to understand, identify and engage in the full scope of civic life. There is perhaps no better time to see the breadth of these various vehicles of engagement than during a crisis. Below are three ways you can make an impact and support relief efforts, as recommended by Points of Light and our Global Network disaster committee.
- Want to donate? Donate cash. During a disaster, many people think the best way to help is to donate food, clothing or goods to those affected. But money is actually the most needed commodity in times of crisis, because it allows experienced responders the flexibility to obtain the exact resources needed. Numerous local and national organizations are assisting in the rescue and recovery efforts. Do your research thoroughly, as scams can unfortunately arise during natural disasters. Many nonprofit organizations make Amazon wish lists for donors during a natural disaster. This tool allows you to fill in a specific and immediate need for a disaster-affected community. To check if these are legitimate organizations, you can look them up on Charity Navigator to make sure donations and other efforts are going to those in need. Also, check with your employer and ask if they are able to match funds donated by employees. Corporations and organizations have immense potential to make an impact after a natural disaster. Many companies have existing donation-matching programs already in place, and others are happy to set up such a program for specific circumstances. Some of Points of Light’s recommended partners include HandsOn New Orleans, United Way of Acadiana, United Way of Southeast Louisiana, HandsOn River Region, American Red Cross, Good360, World Central Kitchen and Team Rubicon. Read more about impactful donations in the Donate issue of Civic Life Today.
- Volunteer with an agency — not on your own. Volunteering locally during a crisis is an excellent way to provide boots-on-the-ground support. But don’t go it alone! Self-deploying in a disaster area is incredibly dangerous and you can inadvertently undermine the efforts of expert responders. Instead, support relief efforts by finding a Points of Light Global Network affiliate in your area, and wait until they ask for volunteer support. Many times, the most needed relief services with these organizations can happen remotely from your home.
- Practice patience. Remember that recovery is a long (often multi-year) process. So if you feel like there’s little you can do right now, be patient. There will be volunteer and cash needs for many months, often years, after the disaster – especially when the community enters the long-term recovery period. Organizations that specialize in disaster relief tend to lose donations and volunteer support as time passes, so they’ll be glad to have as many people as possible stick around for the long haul. Stay informed by listening and learning to find out what the community needs and meet them where they are. And in the meantime, share on social media to use your voice to raise awareness about the disaster relief and long-term recovery needs.
For anyone impacted directly or indirectly by a natural disaster, the national Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) offers 24/7 crisis & emotional support to anyone in the U.S. impacted by natural or human-caused disasters/traumatic events. Callers to the DDH 1-800-985-5990 can connect with counselors in 100+ languages via 3rd party interpretation services.
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