Best Ways To Help After A Natural Disaster

In the wake of Super Hyphoon Haiyan's attack on the Phillipines, a lot of information has been going around about how to help those in need. This is a very good thing, especially in an age where some people think the whole world has gone down the tubes. But what can you do to help with disaster relief? You might not be a doctor or a builder or anything, but there are things you can do. What can you do to ensure the aid gets where it needs to be? What efforts would actually hinder progress? The needs vary from event to event, but here are some ideas about how to make your gifts as useful as possible.

When it comes to material goods, most things are fine if they are being asked for. Clothing, shoes, food items, bottled water and even toys might be helpful for specific needs. However, these things really shouldn't be donated if they aren't being asked for because each shipment means someone has to sort through them, store them and figure out what goes where and when. If a shipment is going to a foreign country it also has to go through that country's version of Customs, which can be very time-consuming. The efforts are appreciated, but there's often so much to do “on the ground” that the agencies can't spare the time and manpower.

If you want to get rid of your old stuff and help out at the same time, you can help organize a fundraiser-say, a yard sale-and give the proceeds to a relief agency. You could also donate those items to Goodwill and the local food bank to help in your own community. Keeping these stocked can go a long way in making sure your own community is prepared if something were to happen. Plus, sometimes local agencies will partner with national ones to take on the bigger “projects”.

It's also not uncommon for relief groups to get an influx of medication and medical supplies. I can see the logic behind sending these things, especially when it comes to pain medication and first aid. However, this isn't a good idea either because a) most of the medications sent will have to be thrown away or burned, and b) first-responders usually have more than enough to meet the community's needs. They will work directly with suppliers or charities such as the American Red Cross if they do need anything. This also goes for personnel such as doctors and nurses.

If you have skills you want to contribute, do so as part of an organized effort. It's one thing if the disaster happened close to you, but you'll need to go with an established relief agency if you want to help out overseas. If your local hospital has a blood drive, donate that way. Even if nothing devastating has happened, it helps them tremendously to have a good supply on hand.

Bottom line- When in doubt, send cash. If specific items are needed, they will be asked for. Otherwise, give money. Donating funds to relief agencies and other charities directly involved in helping disaster victims will ensure that the people get whatever it is that they need and in a timely manner. Think about it this way-when they buy supplies, aid workers are not only meeting the people's immediate needs; they're supporting local businesses. Win-Win.

For more information about disaster preparation and aid, visit

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