To help typhoon victims, send money, not stuff
Louisiana residents are no strangers to natural disasters. When hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the state in the same season, thousands who watched the tragedies unfold on national television reached out to help those in need here at home.
Faced with heartbreaking images of the typhoon-ravaged Philippines — the sea of corpses, communities reduced to rubble, mothers clutching their hungry children — the world is watching an epic tragedy unfold and looking for ways to help there. The big question is how.
In the aftermath of mega-disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan, experts say there are some basic rules for those eager to do good: Forget the rummage sale clothes, the old toys and the kind of supplies that will only stack up undistributed or damage an already weakened economy. Do send a cash donation to a respected charity.
According to a report from The Associated Press, Kathleen Tierney, director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder, people shouldn’t donate stuff; they should donate money.
The Red Cross, for instance, buys goods locally or domestically after disasters to help revive the economy, curb transportation costs and help guarantee culturally appropriate items are being used, said Jana Sweeny, the organization’s director of international communications.
Sweeny says there’s a natural tendency for people to want to help after headline-making catastrophes, but that altruism can sometimes be misguided.
She recalls in the days after Hurricane Katrina when storm survivors were evacuated to the Houston Astrodome, someone sent thousands of pounds of cheese — a shipment far too big for any refrigerator there to hold. Another well-meaning donor dispatched a truckload filled with patent leather shoes.
Many experts say after massive disasters such as the one in the Philippines, it’s best to contribute to humanitarian groups with a proven track record.
One reason is to avoid swindlers and scam artists who may try to appear credible by giving themselves names that sound like established charities or are connected to the disaster. Take your time and pick out a good one.
Experts also say donating to these organizations makes sense because they know the terrain having worked on previous disasters in the countries, often have local partners and are going to be around over the long haul.
Though the typhoon is dominating news coverage now, some charities emphasize that the need for donations will remain great even when the world’s attention moves on to another catastrophe. People made homeless by the Haiti earthquake and the Asian tsunami zone still are struggling years later, says Holly Solberg, director of emergency and humanitarian assistance at CARE USA.
In the Philippines, she says, “we’re not just talking about rebuilding a home. We’re talking about rebuilding livelihoods. People have lost members of their families. Schools have been destroyed. Hospitals have been decimated.”
“I think one of the lessons from previous large-scale disasters,” she adds, “is people are going to be feeling this and recovering for a long time. They’re not going to be back on their feet in months. This is going to take years.”
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