Secure at our desks, thousands of miles away from the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan, it is difficult to imagine what life must be like for the more than 10 million people affected by this horrible natural disaster. The death toll has risen to more than 2,200 and is likely to climb as governments, charities, and individuals continue to offer their practical assistance, their prayers, and their donations.
In disaster situations, support in the very first days is often the difference between life and death. It’s imperative that every ounce of help be put to the most effective use. To this end, we asked some wise members and friends of the Roundtable for their suggestions on some of the best ways concerned Americans might lend a hand.
Byron Harrell, the president of Baptist Community Ministries in New Orleans and a leader during the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, responded:
In every major disaster a lot of well-intended money is wasted because funders give the victims what the funder WANTS them to have and not what they need at that moment. The effects of disasters move in predictable stages but not at a uniform speed or volatility. The trick is to send cash, not material goods, and to support work through trusted sources already on the ground who can accurately diagnose needs and target spending as conditions change. For example, don't send books for the flooded library which will not be rebuilt for several years.
There are many ways to help the victims of this storm. As Harrell attests, the key is to rely on trusted organizations with the capacity and experience to make a difference.
Philanthropy Roundtable members cite Doctors Without Borders, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Team Rubicon, American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, AmeriCares, Direct Relief International, Save the Children, Medical Teams International, NetHope, Plan International, Water Missions International, Rotary International, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and others as organizations with long experience in delivering disaster relief around the globe quickly, effectively, and efficiently.
Alan Marty, a Roundtable member with long charitable experience in the Philippines, cites International Care Ministries as an agency that effectively delivers food in that country as part of its program to permanently lift the ultra-poor out of poverty.
In addition to immediate emergency relief, philanthropists can play a crucial role funding longer-term recovery. We recommend excellent statements by two of our colleagues: “This is a sprint, a marathon, and a decathlon,” by Center for Disaster Philanthropy vice president Regine Webster, and “The Storm Surge of Cash,” by Fred Smith, president of the Gathering.