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Disaster Relief

November 11th, 2013 (01:19 pm)

If you're looking for an efficient, effective, secular organization you can donate to to help with Typhoon relief in the Philippines, I'm going to suggest the International Medical Corps. I first heard of IMC because my friend Jason Goodman's father works for them. Ed and I have supported the organization since sometime in the late 1990s, and there's a lot we like about them, including the fact that they don't use half our donation to inundate us with more requests for money.

I also like the fact that although they absolutely do disaster relief, the organization has an overall focus on building local capacity in the long term. I also really appreciate that they provide mental health care as well as physical, and treat people for psychological as well as physical trauma. I approve of the fact that they view maternal health as integrally connected to child health. (There used to be an article up on their website about breastfeeding support in crisis situations.) They're an excellent organization.

Here's a donation link for Typhone Hayaian-related relief. A more general donation page is here.

If, on the other hand, you don't care whether your disaster relief organization is secular or not, I'll note that if you want to get money where it's needed really quickly, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, "What is the dominant religion of the population of the devastated region?" and then "Does this religious group have a relief organization, because if so, it's probably already there."

The answer here would be "Catholic" and "yes, it's CRS, and they're very good at relief efforts." (Ed and I support CRS as well as IMC; we started donating to them during the refugee crisis in Kosovo, because they were the group managing the refugee relief there.) On their page about their work in the Philippines, they specifically mention disaster response, saying, "The Philippines is vulnerable to typhoons, floods and other natural disasters. Catholic Relief Services and our Church partners respond to emergencies by providing victims with urgent items like food, blankets and housing materials. In addition, CRS runs cash-for-work programs that pay survivors to remove rubble and rehabilitate flooded areas. As communities recover, CRS works with families to rebuild houses and make them stronger than before." (Click on the "Programs" tab in the upper right corner, then expand "Disaster Response.")

You can donate to Catholic Relief Services specifically for Typhoon relief here, or you can make a more general donation here.

Finally, a couple of notes about donating to support disaster relief, in general.

1. The good organizations work together and coordinate efforts. Donate to whichever group you prefer and know that by supporting the work of one, you're supporting the work of all.

2. Be wary of groups that you've never heard of. This is hard when we're talking about a disaster in another country, because if it's an NGO in that country, they could be a totally awesome group that you've never heard of. If your Filipino friend says, "Donate to [group], because I'm familiar with their work and they're awesome," that's a good sign. But if you get a fundraising phone call, or an e-mail solicitation, be really wary because there are scammers who will take your money and line their pockets. If in doubt, give to one of the big groups like the Flipino Red Cross (the Filipino Red Cross site is here. Note that (1) donating to the American Red Cross is NOT going to be an especially effective way to help people in the Philippines and (2) your donation will be denominated in pesos, not dollars. John Scalzi says the current exchange rate is 43 pesos/$1.)

3. Donating in response to a disaster is good. But it will take days or weeks before your contribution translates into help for people who are suffering. Right now, ALL these groups are relying on the donations they got last month or earlier. If disaster relief is important to you, consider making a regular non-inspired-by-the-headlines donation to the organization of your choice on a regular basis -- because then the money will be there for the next disaster. There WILL BE a next disaster; it might or might not be big enough to make the news in the U.S.; but the victims of that storm, earthquake, war or tsunami will be suffering just as much.

4. (Edited to add this.) Send money, not stuff. Here's an article explaining why. There are a few exceptions. For example, after Sandy, there were groups doing clean-up that needed specific items like giant sturdy trash bags. Some of them used Amazon.com wish lists to request what they needed, and people could buy those requested items and ship them in. If you are responding to a request, you can do a gift-in-kind. There are some organizations that will take very specific gifts-in-kind pretty much continuously -- some homeless shelters and women's shelters may appreciate tiny bottles of shampoo collected from hotel stays, little bars of soap, etc., and the "can food drive" is pretty well accepted at this point (although even there, if you have the choice between taking $10 to the store and buying cans to donate, or donating $10 to the food shelf, they can make that cash donation go MUCH further than you can.)

For your second-hand cast offs, pretty much anywhere you go in the U.S. you will find organizations that will eagerly take your old stuff and re-sell it in a thrift shop that raises money for their programs. I recommend ARC and the Epilepsy Foundation over Goodwill. Or hold a garage sale. Or offer it up on Craigslist. Just DO NOT SEND IT TO THE PHILIPPINES. They do not need your old shoes, they do not want your old shoes, and sending them your old shoes will create problems rather than solving them.


Posted by: Rachel M Brown (rachelmanija)
Posted at: November 11th, 2013 07:46 pm (UTC)

Thanks! That's really helpful.

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