Super-Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) began destroying parts of the Philippines in early November and left many without homes or communities. Over 9.5 million people were affected in the Philippines alone. Under such circumstances, generous donor support can save lives, but let’s not fool ourselves: when it comes to disaster relief there are right and wrong ways to be helpful.
It’s not the time to get rid of old stuff. Unless you have a helicopter to donate, plus the logistical support that distributing heavy goods requires, please do not donate old shoes, clothing, teddy bears, or anything else that needs to be sorted and carried. According to a recent article by bestselling author Jessica Alexander, these well-intentioned donations quite possibly do more harm than good. Donating stuff produces a host of new problems as the arrival of that stuff blocks roadways and diverts already strained resources. Furthermore, donation of goods can disrupt local economies. When 10,000 pairs of free shoes are donated, imagine what happens to the local business owner running a shoe store. He or she, the employees and the employees of the local shoe manufacturing factory become instantly unemployed. Free goods often do no good.
The best way to help is to donate money to reputable organizations that worked on the ground in the Philippines prior to the disaster, people who know the lay of the land. It’s not only a smart way to donate, but it shows that you value the expertise of relief workers for these important nonprofits. Such professionals know best what is needed in their communities and how to procure it while supporting the local economy.
Donations are desperately needed. Let’s all think about the big picture and donate smart!
What do you think?
Please visit the Philippine Red Cross for ways to donate, or click the banner to the right.
Visit mOppenheim.TV to view a video interview with Donna Magnuson, Executive Director of International Rescue Commitee Phoenix.
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