When we hear of disasters that affect thousands or even millions of people overnight, it is hard to truly fathom what that means. For those of us who have not gone through devastating earthquakes or struggled to survive as a civilian in a civil war, disasters often end up sounding like abstract concepts. These are real people we’re talking about.
Relief Done the Right Way
Not all forms of relief leave people better off. The correct way to conduct relief efforts is to rebuild communities and help disaster victims get their markets running again. Handouts have their place right after a disaster hits, but handouts create dependency. When a charity focuses more on repair efforts, they enable victims to fully recover from disasters and begin living without outside aid again.
Let’s take a look at the typical aftermath of an earthquake in an underdeveloped nation:
- Houses and stores are destroyed.
- Crops are ruined.
- Water lines are broken.
- Power grids are damaged.
- Roads become impassible.
Not only are thousands left without shelter, power, food, or even water, but their sources of income are lost. They are literally reduced to a life of survival with few prospects for improvement. The only way to address such needs is to rebuild, but third-world nations lack the necessary resources to do so. This is why nonprofits must engage in the right kind of relief. Simply giving handouts helps neither citizens nor governments in developing countries to get going again.
A Portrait of a Victim
Picture a young mother with a child or two and almost no possessions. Her husband is a manual laborer who was severely injured—perhaps even killed—by falling debris in an earthquake or hurricane. She was barely able to shield her children when their home collapsed around them. Now they are without food or shelter. Their water is now completely contaminated. They have no emergency supplies because such are not affordable in their nation.
The mother is probably too dazed by the disaster to do much for several hours except comfort her crying children. As soon as her children stop crying from shock, they start crying because of hunger or thirst. Now she has to find means to feed them. But she has little education, even less work skills, and no resources. It is not like she can make something and sell it—few others are in a position to buy it anyway. At this point, handouts from a relief organization are her only hope for survival.
Meanwhile, a potential donor watches scenes of disaster and suffering on the news. He or she goes online and finds an organization that sends all of his or her donation to charities on the ground in the stricken country. The donor then fills out a simple PayPal form and donates $50 tax-deductible dollars. The charity he or she just donated to immediately puts that $50 into relief packages for the suffering. That $50 donation may go to food, clothing, or temporary shelters. It may also pay for volunteers to fly over there to distribute relief supplies. The starving mother and child now have food, temporary shelter, and adequate clothing.
But these initial handouts are only the beginning of real relief efforts. With emergency supplies distributed, the relief organization turns its attention to rebuilding the community. It will begin repairing roads and buildings, finding new water sources, providing education, and more. It will help provide enough financial capital to get the local markets operating again.
Additional donations will sustain a well-planned reconstruction effort that will make the victim’s lives better than they were before the disaster. The working mother and her two children will once again live in a house and have the food they need to survive. If their husband and father is still alive, he can be nursed back to health. They will be able to sustain themselves once more. It is a much better ending than a permanent tent city fully of refugees who will never have a home again.
Being a Regular Donor
If you want to donate regularly but want your donations to mean something, then you want an organization that will send your entire donation to well-organized relief and reconstruction efforts. Your money will improve the lives of others permanently when it is used this way. It is refreshing for any donor to know that their money makes a real difference.
But there will always be causes to donate to. Once reconstruction of one nation is complete, there will still be impoverished people there to educate, and there will likely be another disaster elsewhere. The joy of giving goes on as you help to improve human conditions worldwide. Please, become a regular donor, and donate to organizations that make a lasting difference!