How You Can Help People Who Were Hit by Hurricane Matthew

by Matt Hershberger Oct 10, 2016

HURRICANE MATTHEW IS THE BIGGEST storm to hit the east coast since Sandy back in 2012. It has killed over a thousand people in Haiti, and at least 19 in the United States. Much of the southeast is still flooded, and the storm has done billions in damage. Millions have been left without power.

A lot of people in the United States and in Haiti are suffering, and there are things you can do to help. Here are some suggestions:

Stay away from the disaster area.

If you are not a resident in one of the area’s that’s been hit, or unless you are part of a volunteer team, stay away. People appreciate your desire to help, but it’s chaos in a lot of the affected areas at the moment, and emergency workers need to focus on the residents and not on you. Your visiting the area can also contribute to gas shortages and take away from supplies that are desperately needed by residents.

Donate money.

When Sandy hit New Jersey a few years ago, I spent all day in a school gymnasium sorting toys and clothes into piles. It was, all at once, incredibly heartwarming to see how much people around the country cared, and incredibly frustrating to know that our time as volunteers could probably be better spent, considering most of the toys and clothes would probably go unused.

It’s a kind, generous impulse to donate things to victims of natural disasters, but it’s not the most effective way of helping. If you donate money instead of things, organizations on the ground will be able to allocate resources in the most effective way — towards getting food to families, towards getting water purification tablets out into the public, towards providing medical help.

Here are some solid, reputable charities that are worth supporting:

Normally, we’d suggest donating to the American Red Cross, but it has a pretty sketchy financial track record in Haiti. Haitian activists suggest giving to a reputable local organization instead. Here are some suggestions:

If you’re in Canada or anywhere else, the Red Cross issue doesn’t apply to you. It’s only the American Red Cross that has come under scrutiny for misuse of funds marked for use in Haiti.

Donate blood.

In times of emergencies, there are almost always blood shortages. You can do a world of good by donating blood. The Red Cross has a tool to help you find a blood drive nearby. You can literally save a life by doing this.

Volunteer if you can.

Especially if you have an expertise — medical training, engineering training, logistics training — your help is invaluable. The Red Cross, which is often the first on the ground in any disaster, is looking for volunteers. Volunteer Florida has a list of reputable organizations that are looking for volunteers, and the United Way of South Carolina is recruiting.

Remember that people aren’t going to recover from this quickly.

I live on the Jersey Shore, and there are people here who are still struggling, four years after Sandy. Many haven’t received insurance money, many have lost homes, many have been displaced. This isn’t something that goes away with the news cycle — 11 years on, people are still struggling on the Gulf Coast because of the aftermath of Katrina. Haiti is nowhere near recovered from the massive 2010 earthquake.

Your help in times of disaster is vital and important. But the help is still needed even after the world moves on. Keep helping. Keep doing good.

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