3 Ways to Maximize Hurricane Relief From Home
Hey y’all! This post is going to be a little bit different from most posts on the site, because this topic is much bigger than the kitchen. It’s what’s going on in everyone’s minds right now: How can I provide hurricane relief after Irma? How can I make sure Harvey victims don’t go hungry? What will I do if Hurricane Jose makes landfall?
These questions can be tough, because disaster relief is no simple task. There are a lot of ways to help victims of natural disasters, but it can be hard to pick one. A lot of people have different ideas on what is “good” or “bad” when it comes to hurricane relief. On top of that, the fact that the disaster happened hundreds of miles away can make you feel helpless, or that your efforts don’t matter.
Today, I’m going to give y’all my take on the whole situation. I’ve got some advice for what you can do to support hurricane relief efforts without having to be a member of the National Guard. Keep in mind that I’m just one person with one voice; this post reflects my opinions and advice, and isn’t meant to be and end-all-be-all Kitchen Gent Guide to Disaster Relief. This is just me going with my gut and doing what I feel is right. I hope that by reading this, you can be closer to finding out what steps you can take to make a difference in a time of need, too!
1. Start local
In my opinion, this is the most important thing to keep in mind when you are thinking of helping with any kind of disaster or hurricane relief. There is always a lot of talk about donating to large charities such as the Red Cross or the Salvation Army, because they are national and have a lot of manpower. These are also the charities that corporate partners usually choose to donate to, and these corporate partners usually provide the easiest way for people to help from afar (add a dollar onto your shopping bill, buy this product and the proceeds will go to hurricane relief, etc.). However, I choose not to support these organizations because I believe that local nonprofits can have a more direct and long-lasting impact on a community.
Consider this: the Red Cross has the manpower of volunteers from across the nation helping down in Houston right now. However, these volunteers have lives that they have to go back to after a while. They can’t stay on the ground long enough to truly help the rebuilding efforts. Aside from that, with Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida as I write this, there has been talk of reallocating resources from one disaster area to another. The affected communities down in Texas don’t need outsiders coming in for a brief interlude – they need dedicated volunteers, members of their own communities who are in it for the long haul. Add that to the complaints of local people and several reports from NPR casting the shadow of doubt on the efficacy of the organization, and you can see why donating to local efforts can ensure your money goes where it needs to go. The Houston Press has compiled a list of local disaster relief funds, which is a great resource if you’re looking for ways to help without contributing to costly overhead!
2. Find your passion and support it
Disasters affect absolutely every part of society. They cause homelessness and food insecurity, damage property, lead to abandoned animals, separate families, ruin economies, rip up infrastructure, and the list just goes on and on. Some organizations help provide a broad definition of “disaster clean-up,” while others focus on one of these issues specifically. Both have their merits, but I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t practice targeted giving because it’s less convenient than donating to a large organization that kind of does it all.
We all know that we are more invested in something when it’s something that we’re passionate about, so my suggestion is this: identify an issue that you’re passionate about, and practice targeted giving. For example, as a food blogger, I obviously am very sensitive to issues of food security. Stories of crop failures and grocery store supply chains have been of particular interest to me in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and providing food to those that need it after Hurricane Irma is one of the things that I’m thinking about most.
To help Texas, I’m looking at donating to the Galveston, Corpus Christi, and Houston food banks, as well as Feeding Texas (a larger organization that helps mobilize donations to food banks around the state). Depending on how hard Florida is hit and what areas, I’ve turned to FoodPantries.org as a resource for finding food banks around the entire state. Their directory of websites can take you to the donation pages of any of the hardest-hit areas. Right now, keep your eye out on Miami-Dade County organizations, since they will likely be among the hardest-hit; however, don’t forget about the little guys! A big concern in Texas is that rural areas don’t receive the same amount of help because people are more concerned about the big cities. Consider donating to some smaller areas after Irma to ensure that everyone has access to quality food so they can rebuild their lives.
If your passion is something else, do your research and come up with ways to donate to that specific industry to get them back on their feet. Are you an animal-lover? Find out who is doing the much-needed animal rescues in the affected area and donate to their efforts. Do you love architecture or home design? Support the local Habitat for Humanity chapter as they rebuild homes damaged and lost to the storm. There are a million ways to help out – sometimes all it takes is a quick Google search to find out how!
3. Don’t forget about them
We as humans have a tendency to forget disasters the moment that our attention is grabbed by something else. Don’t let the news dictate how long you think about things, though! The reality is, while we up in the safe zones will be able to move on with our lives, people at the heart of the disaster have had their lives disrupted for weeks, months, or maybe even years. Monitor the situation and make sure there isn’t a desperate need for donations that isn’t being met. Like the pages of organizations that you donate to on Facebook so you can stay in tune to their needs. Set reminders on your phone for a daily or weekly donation for a set amount of time. Do whatever you need to in order to make sure that you’re making a positive impact that lasts. I promise, it will feel better to know that you made more than a one-time difference!
So those are my tips to contributing to hurricane relief in a way that is most helpful and fulfilling for those on the ground. Again, these are just suggestions and are not meant to be a solid guide on how to donate! As with all things, the end decision is up to you. Spend your money wisely, and make sure that you’re doing all you can to make the world a better place. I’m sending my thoughts out to all that have been affected by the recent floods, fires, and earthquakes around the world, and I’m hoping that together we can make a difference in the lives of those in need!