There are many ways in which we can help in the wake of a natural disaster whether it is local or elsewhere. The first things we turn to are the obvious: food, water, shelter, medical aid. But there are also other ways in which we can help than often go unmet or unnoticed. Here are some ways you can help in the wake of a disaster.
1. Babysitting Services
After a disaster comes the tedious cleanup job which is very hazardous for children and pets. Debris can contain sharp objects or glass, and floodwater is often contaminated. Building structures may also be unstable. To help you can offer to watch children or pets while victims investigate and clean.
“If those affected by a disaster hope to be covered by insurance, it will be essential for them to document the damage to their property. Chances are, their cameras were not the first things they grabbed when they evacuated or rescued belongings, so disposable cameras are a helpful donation.”
3. Sunscreen and Insect Repellant
In addition to protective clothing, like rubber gloves and rubber boots, volunteer crews also need sunscreen and bug spray. The cleanup work is usually on the outside, without the benefit of shade, and wet areas can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other bugs.
4. Cleaning Supplies
Cleaning supplies are essential for any cleanup. There can never be too many garbage bags, and bleach is also essential; in a pinch, if there’s a water shortage, it can be used to treat drinking water (only household liquid bleach, not scented or color-safe)
5. Laundry Services
“If clothes have been soiled or soaked by dirty water, they’ll need to be cleaned before they start to mildew.” However, this can be very chore to accomplish without water and electricity which often gets disrupted after an emergency. “Flood victims in Nashville didn’t realize the value of laundry services until the Tide company brought in mobile Laundromat trucks. They were a lifesaver (and a clothes saver)”.
6. New Underwear
Clothes are usually donated in large quantities after a disaster. However, what is omitted is underwear and socks. A clean pair of underwear can go a long way to change someone’s day.
7. Feminine Products
“As you just witnessed in whatever disaster you experienced, Mother Nature is the boss around here, and her monthly gift for women doesn’t stop coming in the event of emergencies. Buying tampons or maxi-pads is the last thing a woman living in a shelter or salvaging her home needs to think about”.
8. Pet Supplies
Pets are also affected by natural disasters, as seen during Hurricane Katrina. Pet owners need pet food, litter, medicines, and even free dog-walking services.
“If there’s enough warning, people in the line of a storm might need space to store things out of harm’s way. After a disaster, they may need an area in which to dry things out and clean them off. Nonprofits also need spaces, such as parking lots or empty warehouses, to set up shelters, relief centers, and donation drop-off points”.
10. Communication: Help Get the Word Out
People in the midst or aftermath of a crisis may have no way to find out what’s going on. You can volunteer for a crisis hotline that directs callers to the appropriate organizations, or distribute flyers with relevant phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses. The Red Cross’s Web site is a helpful clearinghouse for emergency information. (It also offers tips on disaster preparedness.) Check your local government’s site as well.
Cars are often lost to natural disasters, and public transportation is sometimes disrupted. Consider offering a carpool service between relief centers, shelters, churches, and the grocery store, or donate bus passes if public transportation is available.
12. Personal Comforts
Giving luxury items to someone who’s just lost everything may seem frivolous. You may ask, who needs a gift certificate to a fancy restaurant when their entire kitchen has just been destroyed? The truth is, a lot of people do. “The emotional and psychological toll of a disaster is often just as serious, though less visible, as the material damage. Sometimes small personal comforts can help return a sense of normalcy. Contact a service that offers counseling for disaster victims and see what personal comforts might be appreciated—things like stuffed animals for children or massages for adults.”
The main gift you give when lending a hand during a time of crisis is hope. A donation, monetary or otherwise, no matter how big or small, expected or unexpected, lets the victims of a natural disaster know that they are not alone. It’s the small things that build—or rebuild—a community.