Disaster relief: Many of us wonder how to help. Lately, there have been hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and fires. As travelers, we’ve been to many of these places. We’ve met the people. We’ve seen their communities, maybe visited their homes. When something terrible happens, we understand the damage and what it will take to rebuild their lives. We share the loss and suffering of our friends around the world.
Do not sit down and dash off a check to the American Red Cross! Sure, it provides disaster relief, but repeated criticism of spending–26% on overhead, not the 9% it claims–makes donors wary. In an NPR interview just before the hurricanes hit, a Red Cross executive couldn’t answer the question of how much is spent on administrative costs. When Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, did a study, he found the Red Cross had spent 25% of the funds generously donated for the 2010 Haitian earthquake victims actually went to cover internal expenses. A whopping $124 million!!
How to find the best match for your disaster relief dollars
Charity Navigator rates non-profit charitable organizations. Its tagline: Your Guide to Intelligent Giving. Using a four-star system, it provides an evaluation of agencies who provide all types of assistance following disasters. Each event is described, with a corresponding list of on-the-scene organizations needing donations. Click on the links to learn how each organization uses its funds, as well as historical information, IRS 990 forms, programs, and a link to the website. It’s easy to choose one that aligns with your values. You can even donate directly through Charity Navigator. (The Red Cross is listed, but earns 3 stars. There are plenty of 4-star winners.)
To get you started, here are parts of the world that need our help NOW:
Disaster relief with a personal touch
Want to feel more involved? Here are several ideas for responsible travelers:
- Donate air miles. Most airlines allow you to donate miles for a variety of reasons, from disaster relief to Make-a-Wish Foundation…and lots of other worthwhile causes. I’ve already told you why you should not accumulate a zillion miles–they are losing value by the day. Unfortunately, this is not a tax-deductible gift, but it will definitely earn Good Karma points.
- Start a school supply drive. If your travels have led you to a favorite destination, you may want to help a specific community, school, or group. Local authorities or organizations can help coordinate your efforts. I’m a fan of helping schools, but you may have another preference. Everyone needs help after these tragedies–each cause is important.
- Habitat for Humanity. In the months to come–after news has shifted to other topics–volunteers will be needed to rebuild homes and towns. Sign up now for the Hurricane Recovery Volunteer Project and you’ll be notified when you’re needed.
What will you do? Please choose one way to help those whose lives have been turned upside down. Then do it today. TODAY!