When natural or human-caused disasters strike, people look for ways to help survivors.
As we struggle to find ways to help our fellow human beings, we must weigh our options, and our feelings, carefully.
Before heading to a disaster area, consider the complexities of the situation. To make the most of your efforts and assist impacted communities best, consider these tips for donating and volunteering responsibly:
Affiliate with existing non-profit organizations before coming to the disaster area. Immediately following a disaster, a community can become easily overwhelmed by the amount of generous people who want to help. Contacting and affiliating with an established organization will help to ensure that you are appropriately trained and supported to respond in the most effective way.
- The impulse to help when others who are suffering is commendable. However, volunteering inside a disaster area can be dangerous, stressful work in extreme environments.
- At this time, the situation is not conducive to volunteers entering the impacted zone, however the need for volunteers is inevitable. If you’d like to volunteer, please register with a National VOAD Member of your choice or fill out the online form to be connected to responding organizations as the situation becomes safe for volunteers.
· Do not self deploy. Seeing images of disaster may compel you to head to the impacted area. Don’t underestimate the complexity of working in a disaster area. Until a need has been identified and the local community impacted has requested support, volunteers should not enter.
- Be sure to affiliate with existing voluntary organization before coming to the disaster area, and that organization has been asked to respond.
- Wait until it is safe to travel to volunteer sites and opportunities have been identified.
- Once assigned a position, make sure you have been given an assignment and are wearing proper safety gear for the task.
· Be patient. Recovery lasts a lot longer than the media attention.
- There will be volunteer needs for many months, often years, after the disaster - especially when the community enters the long-term recovery period.