Watching the news, we see repeated stories of tragedy following international disasters, including the Nepal Earthquake, that inspire us to travel and help with recovery, but what can you do when you can’t, or shouldn’t, travel to a disaster area?
What Can You Do to Help in a Disaster Area?
After yet another powerful earthquake hit eastern Nepal Tuesday, less than three weeks after a previous earthquake there left more than 8,000 dead and countless more injured and homeless, it’s hard to not want to head out to aid those who are suffering. Perhaps you’ve vacationed there, or have friends or relatives who live there. But the reality is, rushing off to help, while good-intentioned, may be unrealistic and less helpful than you’d think. Not to worry, though, as there are still things you can do to help in the aid effort after the Nepal earthquakes.
Donations from Home
Think carefully about what you’re donating. After covering numerous tragedies through the years for an international news organization, I’ve learned that in the short-term aftermath, people don’t really need your used “items”. Once shipped, I’ve witnessed warehouses full of used shoes and clothing just sit, waiting to be distributed on the ground—but with all the chaos, it doesn’t happen anytime soon, if ever. Instead, consider making a monetary donation to a reputable and well-rated organization, Doctors Without Borders, for example. That money will likely go much further towards medical or housing supplies, food or local materials that people need most and can get fastest. Be sure to check out the effectiveness of the group you’re donating to on sites like Charity Navigator prior to giving.
Collecting & Selling
If you don’t have extra money to spare, but do want to take up a collection of material goods (back to those used shoes and clothing)—once you’ve done it, work to sell it locally or make it part of a benefit that generates money, and give the money you’ve earned. While you’re running your clothing or food drive, put up signs with information that lets buyers learn more about other ways they too, can help.
In the weeks immediately following a disaster, consider volunteering in your local offices of a charity or organization that has actually sent staff and aid resources to the disaster zone.
Think Long Term
Even though your initial response may be to want to get in there and help, think further into the future. Long after the “first responders” have left, the community may have needs that include re-building and extended care for residents. Thinking about the long haul may afford you the time to get additional training so that when you do finally travel, you’ll be more familiar with the local customs, the language, and train for additional skills in professions such as building or teaching that may be badly needed.