By: Dolly Duplantier

The images are heartbreaking. Many of us in warm and safe households can’t imagine the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan. Yet, there are plenty who know first hand the ravages of natural disasters. Within the U.S., we’ve seen what the forces of nature can do to our neighborhoods – tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and floods have all taken their toll. And, each time, we come together as a nation to volunteer and help those in need. We come together as a community to gather and distribute food, clothing, medical and housing supplies. After Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy, many students spent holiday breaks volunteering to help rebuild devastated neighborhoods.

Right now in the Philippines though, with communications wiped out, limited security and roads blocked, only experienced disaster relief aid workers are allowed in. How do we help those so far away who are in desperate need of food, water, medical attention, sanitation, and shelter? There are plenty of opportunities to help including donating money, organizing fundraisers, and giving blood.

For now, Meredith Brandt, communications manager for the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region said financial donations are the most efficient way to help meet the emergency needs of those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

As of November 16, the American Red Cross has committed $11 million to support their global response to the disaster. Funds will be used to distribute relief items, repair and rebuild shelters, provide healthcare, and ensure access to clean water and sanitation systems.

“We don’t send in unaffiliated volunteers,” said Brandt. "We have subject matter experts that go to help with disaster relief.”

These specialized emergency response teams are experts in logistics, disaster assessment, shelter, health, water, and sanitation. They will assist the Philippine Red Cross with rescue efforts and relief operations.

Brandt emphasized that financial aid will go a long way to help rebuild and recover and said that individuals and groups may also consider fundraising for the Red Cross.

In fact, many college student organizations are doing that now. Their desire to help has resulted in a number of creative and tried and true ideas to raise funds for the relief effort.

From using social media to engage their community and collect donations to organizing fundraisers and selling t-shirts , students everywhere are volunteering at home to make a difference.

For the last 15 years, the Philippine Student Association at Texas A&M University has organized a talent show to help promote diversity among the state’s universities. This year they decided to donate 100% of their ticket sales, as well as any other additional donations collected during the event. “We decided to change focus and donate all of the money raised to the typhoon relief effort,” said Trung Mai, vice president of Texas A&M’s Philippine Student Association. “We wanted to make the event more about our mission statement and what we are all about.”

Mai said they accomplished their goal this year to get more schools involved in the program. “We were sold out and packed all 500 seats in the auditorium. We had six or seven other universities support us, including the University of Texas at Arlington, San Antonio, Dallas, North Texas, and the University of Houston. We raised about $2,500.”

The group decided to donate their funds to the Philippine-based humanitarian organization, Gawad Kalinga.

Mai said they looked at different relief organizations. “We decided to work with Gawad Kalinga. It’s an organization that has a lot of credibility within the Philippines. You can go to their website to donate. There are plenty of choices of how to use your donations. You can also help by keeping them in your prayers.”

The Cornell Filipino Association in Ithaca, New York, is utilizing existing events to raise funds. They’ve also planned a bake sale and a cooking competition, So, You Think You Can Adobo on November 22. The competition emphasizes the delicious diversity of the Philippines' national dish. For only $5, attendees can sample and judge the tastiest variation of Chicken Adobo. Their proceeds will go to Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization working to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.

The Cornell University group used the website Charity Navigator to determine where they would direct their funds. The nonprofit evaluates the financial health, accountability, and transparency of nearly 7,000 charities.

The Philippine Student Association at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign held a bake sale and fundraiser this past weekend. Funds raised will be directed to the Philippine Red Cross.

In addition to volunteering to raise funds, students can also support relief efforts by donating blood or organizing a blood drive.

Most people don’t think about donating blood until a disaster strikes. It’s important to ensure a sufficient blood supply and it’s also a great opportunity for community engagement.

While you may not be able to travel the globe now to help with disaster relief, Brandt suggests that students check out their local Red Cross chapter for volunteer opportunities within their own community. Individuals 13 years and older can volunteer.

If you want to be ready to help with disaster relief in the future, then consider disaster response training. Most disaster responders must be 18 years or older. Each local chapter can provide additional information about volunteer opportunities.

“We encourage people who want to help with disaster relief to become affiliated with the Red Cross and be trained,” said Brandt. “So, if the next disaster occurs, you are trained and ready to go either nationally or internationally.”

If you are organizing a fundraiser or would like to personally help fund relief efforts, here is a partial listing of organizations, in addition to ones previously listed, working to help those affected by the typhoon. What are you doing to help those affected by disasters? Share your stories.

Catholic Relief Services

ChildFund International

Direct Relief

Habitat for Humanity

International Medical Corps

International Rescue Committee (IRC) 

Salvation Army

Save the Children

UNICEF 

World Food Programme (WFP) 

World Vision

 

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