When Natural Disaster Strikes – How Can YOU Help?

It’s no secret that natural disasters pull at our heart strings. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and the recent tornado in Washington, Illinois not only took people’s lives and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless but they unraveled communities, families, and hope. Yet with all the media coverage around the world when natural disaster strikes, sometimes one question remains unanswered, “How can we help?

People frequently reach out to our team via Facebook, Twitter, and email to learn how they can help out in the face of tragedy. For example, we recently received the following message from our national volunteer network,

My community was hit by the tornadoes in the midwest and people are frantic. Volunteers are finally being allowed to help but we need all the support we can get. Washington is still completely shut out to the public and you cannot enter without an ID proving you’re from there. We are in need of donations and supplies for small injuries such as neosporin, peroxide, saline solution for eyes, and bandages. Most of the injuries now are ones that are coming from the clean up. Dust masks are helpful too. The biggest thing right now is spreading the word. Washington is a SMALL town. Can you please help?” 

The answer is, of course we can help! While each situation is different, we’ve listed below a few key ACTION steps anyone can take if they want to help out when natural disaster strikes:

1.) Find the best resource for local reliable and real-time information on the ground:
In Washington, one of the best resources for information right now are two Facebook pages, The Washington Chamber of Commerce and Washington IL Tornado Recovery. One is being managed by people on the ground running the donation center and the other is through local people running a shelter. For most natural disasters, you can check for live updates from American Red Cross on Twitter @RedCross or their News & Events webpage as they open shelters across areas impacted by tragedy.

Red Cross Twitter update on Philippines relief

2.) Subscribe to updates from individuals providing relief efforts:
Whether it’s joining an online discussion board, Twitter chat, or Facebook page set up by individuals providing relief, you need to get LIVE updates about the types of supplies and where volunteers are really needed to make the most impact. One great resource is an organization called RECOVERS.ORG which provides infrastructure for recovery to communities hit by natural disaster. Generally they set up these online community recovery sites which allow you to easily send supplies, request assistance, see emergency contact info for the area, and subscribe to LIVE updates or volunteer list serves so you can learn where specifically volunteers are needed.
Red Cross Twitter update on shelter opened in Washington due to the tornado
3.) Raise MEANINGFUL Awareness & Take ACTION:
Believe it or not, most people don’t take the time complete steps 1 and 2 above. If you’ve found the best resources for local reliable information and you’re subscribing to live updates from individuals providing relief on the ground, SHARE that information across your social networks to raise MEANINGFUL Awareness. Next determine how you want to take ACTION. Generally, you can send or donate supplies/money or you can join the volunteer efforts. Below you’ll find a list of organizations that are mobilizing and deploying major disaster relief efforts. Check out these orgs for a variety of ways to lend your support and remember every disaster provides us with the opportunity to create positive meaningful change.
  • Action Against Hunger – The international poverty-fighting nonprofit, which provides sustainable global food and water solutions, is distributing drinking water, buckets, soap and chlorine tablets. It’s also providing sanitation equipment to help prevent waterborne diseases. Learn more here.
  • World Food Programme – The UN’s hunger-fighting organization has allocated an immediate $2 million for Haiyan relief, with a greater appeal pending as needs become apparent. The UN organization is sending 40 metric tons of fortified biscuits in the immediate aftermath, as well as working with the government to restore emergency telecommunications in the area. Americans can text the word AID to 27722 to donate $10 or give online. Learn more here.
  • Team Rubicon – The nonprofit, which galvanizes first responders and veterans to help in times of crises, has sent a group of specialists to aid in search-and rescue, medical triage and medical relief. A second team will be deployed Nov. 12 to create a supply chain for field work. Learn more here.
  • Red Cross -The humanitarian and disaster relief organization has sent emergency responders and volunteers to provide meals and relief items. Already, thousands of hot meals have been provided to survivors. Red Cross volunteers and staff also helped deliver preliminary emergency warnings and safety tips. Give by donating online or mailing a check to your local American Red Cross chapter. Learn more here.
  • AmeriCares – The emergency response and global health organization is sending medical aid for 20,000 survivors, including antibiotics, wound care supplies and pain relievers. AmeriCares is also giving funds to local organizations to purchase supplies. Learn more here.
  • World Vision – The Christian humanitarian organization that specifically supports families living in poverty is providing food, water and hygiene kits at the evacuation centers. World Vision was also still actively responding to last month’s earthquake in Bohol, which fortunately was not struck by the eye of the storm. Learn more here.
  • ShelterBox – ShelterBox, an emergency relief organization, provides families with a survival kit that includes a tent and other essential items while they are displaced or homeless. Learn more here.
  • UNICEF – Anticipating that children will likely be among the worst affected by the typhoon, UNICEF is working on getting essential medicines, nutrition supplies, safe water and hygiene supplies to children and families in the area. Learn more here.
  • Salvation Army – The Christian hunger and poverty-fighting organization is allocating 100 percent of all disaster donations for relief efforts “to immediately meet the specific needs of disaster survivors.” Text TYPHOON to 80888 to Donate $10 or give online.Learn more here.
  • Doctors Without Borders – The international medical humanitarian organization is sending 200 tons of medical and relief items, including vaccines, tents and hygiene kits. Learn more here.
  • Operation USA – The Los Angeles-based nonprofit is sending much-needed water purification supplies to victims and seeking corporate partners to help with delivery. Donate $10 by texting AID to 50555 or give online. Learn more here.
  • American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee – The humanitarian assistance organization, which fights global poverty in 70 different countries, is sending disaster and relief development experts to aid in recovery. The organization is also empowering local partners in their efforts.Learn more here.
  • The Lutheran World Relief  – LWR, which fights poverty by improving global health and ensuring basic human rights are met, is working with local partners to provide water, shelter, financial resources and recovery efforts. LWR is appealing for $2.5 million for its typhoon relief fund. Learn more here.
  • Catholic Relief Services – CRS will provide shelter, water, toilets and more. The charitable arm aims to provide temporary housing for 32,000 families in three areas. Learn more here.
  • International Medical Corps – The emergency response team is providing infection control, clean water and food to families in the hardest hit areas. Learn more here.
  • The International Rescue Committee – The organization, which specializes in humanitarian crises, is sending a relief team to help provide water and sanitation systems. Learn more here.

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