What You Can (and Should Not) Do Right Now to Help Disaster Victims
Hurricanes in the Atlantic, wildfires in the west – the destruction left in the wake of these disasters wreaked havoc as they passed, but you can help! In addition to registering for Disaster Volunteer Registry or the Arlington Network for Community Registry (ANChoR ), take a look at some of the ways to contribute to response and recovery efforts:
1. Donate Money – Cash is the most effective way to help the people impacted by disaster get the resources they need. Consider donating to:
· The One American Appeal fund, launched by all five living former American Presidents. 100% of the monies collected will go to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, Rebuild Texas Fund, Florida Disaster Fund, Unidos Por Puerto Rico, and the Fund for the Virgin Islands (or consider giving to one of those funds directly).
· The Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund and Redwood Empire Food Bank through AB Charities (or, again, donating to these funds directly).
· A volunteer organization responding to the recovery efforts. You can find these organizations through the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD). Members listed in their registry must go through a lengthy vetting process, so you can rest assured they are a legitimate organization.
Want to make the most out of your donation? Check to see how the organization you donate to spends its funds through CharityNavigator or GuideStar.
2. Volunteer in the Field – If you are able, volunteering in a response effort can be a life-changing and incredibly rewarding experience.
· Register to be connected with a volunteer organization through NVOAD, or find an organization you would like to work with, and apply direct to them from the NVOAD website.
· Want to focus on helping animals? Work with fellow veterans, or a faith-based community? There are many different volunteer organizations you can choose to work with; consider demographics you may want to assist, or types of organizations based on their impact area you would feel most comfortable when choosing a volunteer agency to work with.
· Volunteer assistance will be needed for months and years to come. Look ahead in your schedule to see when you may be able to help. Some organizations allow teens to assist- consider a family volunteer vacation during spring break or the summer holidays!
3. Volunteer from Home – Even if you can’t travel to participate in the recovery process, you can still assist!
· Raise funds for an organization or relief fund. Fundraisers serve three purposes: they keep the disaster and survivors in people’s attention, they help continue the recovery efforts with the funds raised, and they help direct potential volunteers to assist.
· Offer to provide an organization logistical support. This can be especially helpful to a smaller organization. If you have a skill, such as web content, data entry, writing, etc. offer it up and see if you can assist from home!
What not to do – There are some things that may seem helpful, but can actually harm the response and recovery efforts.
· Self Deploy – Don’t travel to a disaster area without affiliating with an organization. Organizations make sure they have the resources necessary to support the volunteers they accept (housing, food, water, sanitation, etc.). By traveling to a disaster area without an organization, you can tax the already strained resources and hurt the recovery process.
· Donate Stuff – Be extremely cautious of donating material goods. While done with the best of intentions, these goods take a tremendous amount of time and space away from the recovery process to sort and store. Sadly, when people bring donated goods to disaster areas without a pre-identified drop-off location, the items may end up being dumped on street corners and never reaching their intended audience. Before donating items, be sure that the transport has an identified drop-off location, and a list of requested items needed. Donate only items from that list. (watch this video to see how material donations can impact a response)
As a reminder, it’s important to affiliate with a volunteer organization before a disaster occurs. When you register with an organization, you become a vetted and ready resource! Register today with the Disaster Volunteer Registry or the Arlington Network for Community Registry (ANChoR) to help Arlington prepare for and respond to emergencies!