It’s natural to feel stuck and overwhelmed when a disaster strikes and you find yourself feeling powerless or unable to help. This week, millions across southeast Texas and Louisiana have been imperiled by Hurricane Harvey, which has already destroyed countless homes, devastated critical infrastructure, and left thousands without steady access to shelter, food, power, and clothing.
And while volunteering or donating to well-vetted charitable organizations are thought to be the most effective ways to help, there are still plenty of opportunities to be empowered to assist — even if giving money isn’t an immediate possibility or if you live far from those affected. Here are a few suggestions for ways to help out:
- Give blood. No matter where you live, giving blood is always useful, particularly as the need for donations grows in the aftermath of a major emergency. One easy way to help is to donate through a national system like the Red Cross.
- Amplify causes. If you find a specific cause, whether it’s reuniting pets with their owners or alleviating the urgent need for diapers among displaced parents, using social media to make others aware of these causes might entice other similarly-minded people to give, even if you can’t.
- Future gifts. Even if you are unable to donate money right now, long-term recovery efforts by disaster relief organizations rely upon funding far beyond the moment that the television cameras leave the scene. Setting up a future gift or even setting reminders to put aside money for a cause can be a meaningful way to stay connected to a relief effort.
- Give away things you don’t need. Even if you’ve KonMari-ed your closets or house within an inch of their lives, there is almost always something we have lying around that we may not necessarily need. If it’s useable clothing, non-perishable foods, office supplies, blankets, or sporting goods, there will be a need for them as recovery efforts begin. Keep an eye open for calls for goods from relief agencies.
- Write a letter, send a card. If you see the hard work of a local fire department, organization, individuals, or religious group and are inspired, writing a card or a letter of thanks is a small but meaningful way to make exhausted workers and volunteers feel appreciated.
Whether you realize or not, charitable giving and volunteering is also linked to a great sense of personal fulfillment or even longer life. In other words, let helping others also be a way to help yourself. There’s no better time than right now.