In the wake of Hurricane Florence, people are eager to volunteer and donate. But there is a right way and a wrong way to help out.
I have always loved this line from the Shel Silverstein children’s poem Helping.
And some kind of help is the kind of help
That helping’s all about
And some kind of help is the kind of help
We all can do without
Here are Dos AND Dont’s on how to help after a hurricane, earthquake or any natural disaster or emergency.
DOs: ways to help after a natural disaster
I know it is impersonal, but the best thing you can do after a natural disaster is to donate money to local groups working in the area. To find a list, check the websites of local news stations and newspapers for information on reputable places receiving monetary donations. Or donate to national organization such as the American Red Cross or Samaritan’s Purse.
donate things people need
ONLY DONATE ITEMS ON THE LIST of needed things. And only donate to places that say they are accepting donations for disaster relief.
Think you are too far away to help locally? You may be wrong.
Depending on how far away you live from the affected area, local efforts may include sheltering refugees at nursing home and assisted care facilities, local churches collecting donations or organizing teams to help rebuild, and animal shelters looking for foster families.
After Hurricane Harvey, adoptable dogs were flown from Texas to New Jersey to go out to shelters across the Northeast. Clearing the Texas shelters made room for displaced animals waiting to be reunited with their families.
We all want to rush in and help during a disaster. But the rebuilding and need for help will last for months and even years. Step in once the “newness” has worn off, and the bulk of volunteers have gone home.
There will still be plenty of work left to do.
open your heart and your ears
Reach out to friends in the affected areas. Ask them how they are REALLY doing. Be the person that lets them break down and cry on your shoulder.
And keep reaching out. Contact your friends today, tomorrow, next week, next month, the month after that, and next year.
help the helpers
Reach out and help the helpers. Find out what you can do for the First Responders, employees of nursing homes taking in refugees or workers at the animal shelters.
PLEASE CALL FIRST to make sure that your generosity is welcome and not a hindrance.
I”m repeating this, because it is the single best thing you can do after a disaster.
Open up your heart and wallet until it hurts.
DON’Ts: things NOT to do after a natural disaster
don’t just show up at the disaster site
don’t donate items off the list
I know. You are at the store items on the list of needed donations. Then you see an adorable stuffed animal and think of how it would make a displaced child feel so much better if they could just hug that teddy bear.
What that child and their family needs are to be dry, fed, rested, and feel safe.
Items not on the list take up space needed for necessities, and they take up volunteer time to sort and distribute.
So please. Leave the stuffed animals and other extras on the shelf.
DO NOT DONATE YOUR CRAP
Now is not the time to unload your worn out clothes, kids collection of used stuffed animals, the sofa your dog peed on, etc..
Volunteers must sort through all donations and determine if they are suitable to distribute. Going through your junk is taking their time away from getting useful items to the people who need them.
A little personal aside: I think there may be a special place in hell for people that use a natural disaster as an excuse to get rid of their crap. Someone just survived a Hurricane with nothing but the clothes on their back and no shoes on their feet. Do you think the high heels you wore once to your cousin’s wedding are going to help them?
don’t second guess the public officials
Nobody needs your opinion on whether the mayor, governor or whoever should have ordered an evacuation earlier, sent additional First Responders, etc. Debating these things only pulls attention away from assisting the victims.
don’t blame the victims
In any natural disaster, there will be people that choose to stay and ride it out instead of evacuating. You don’t walk in those people’s shoes. You don’t know what you would have done if you had been in their situation.
I’m not saying you need to show them compassion, but you do need to keep your mouth shut.
Thank you for opening your heart and lending a helping hand.
Don’t just show up at a disaster site hoping to help. Doing so takes time and energy away from the people who need it. And worse, you could become another victim.
If you want to get hands-on, do your homework and find a group in your area that is organizing volunteers. Better yet, look for ways to volunteer locally.
And wait. There will be no shortage of volunteers immediately after a disaster. It is in the months after when volunteers disappear that your help is needed the most.