When disaster strikes you or your family, it’s normal to feel helpless. It is natural to be frightened and to wonder where to turn to find the aid you’ll need to get through to the next day. But there are many places to go for help. Disaster relief charities exist and will reach out to any community in need. Whether it’s medical care, food, and water, shelter, hygiene products, spiritual guidance, or even cold hard cash, you can find what you need to get you by after a disaster. Even once the initial shock and the need for immediate relief subsides, many organizations will help with repairs.
Disaster Relief Charities
These groups are dedicated to helping those who have been affected by disasters. It is literally what they are there for. So, take advantage of their services in any way you can. The best plan is to know which organizations are available locally before disaster strikes. Therefore, make it part of your disaster preparedness plan. Find out which humanitarian groups are available in your area. Consider whether or not you have a strong preference for taking aid from a secular organization versus a religious one. Then, ask for help when you need it.
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross is a secular, volunteer-led humanitarian organization. This massive organization provides not only disaster relief, but also blood donations, safety training, international relief services, and aid for military families. The American Red Cross’ mission statement declares that the organization “prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”
The Red Cross offers medical care, financial assistance, and emergency communication at no cost to those in need. It also operates disaster shelters across the country.
The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian organization that provides some services to those in crisis. This organization offers disaster relief, financial assistance, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and aid for veterans and the elderly. The Salvation Army also vows to end human trafficking, domestic violence, gang violence, LGBTQ issues, poverty, and unemployment. The Salvation Army operates thrift stores located across the country as well. While there is no cost to receive assistance from The Salvation Army, you may be expected to spread the organization’s religious agenda.
The United Way is a secular volunteer organization that specializes in responding to poverty and its effects on health, education, and stability. United Way’s 211 program allows anyone in need of help to dial 211 from any phone. Dialing that number puts the caller in touch with local relief services. This includes disaster relief, emergency alerts, mental health support, shelters, domestic violence assistance, housing and utility assistance, employment services, healthcare information, and aid for veterans.
World Vision is a global Christian humanitarian organization. Although the organization identifies itself as religious, it stresses that its services are available to all people of all faiths, as well as those who do not practice religion at all. World Vision’s focus is mostly on connecting children in third world countries with sponsors. The sponsors pay a monthly fee to help provide those children with food, drinking water, and access to education. The organization also provides relief in the event of a disaster.
Learn more about World Vision below:
Samaritan’s Purse is another Christian organization dedicated to helping people around the world in the name of Jesus. This organization, devoted to global disaster response, stockpiles supplies in warehouses all over the globe. When disaster strikes, they hand out food, water, cooking utensils, food, blankets, tents, and rain gear. Samaritan’s Purse also supplies hospitals with medical supplies and dispatches medical teams to areas where people have no access to emergency medical care.
Episcopal Relief and Development
Episcopal Relief and Development is the official organization of the Episcopal Church. It focuses on four distinct goals: hunger, healthcare, economic opportunities, and disaster relief. This organization has a well-developed U.S. Disaster Program, which proved key in response to the 2017 hurricane season. Episcopal Relief and Development offers a wealth of disaster preparedness education resources on its website.
Catholic Charities serves communities with over 160 agencies across the United States. Each agency offers social services customized for the specific community it serves. Catholic Charities is the official disaster relief agency of the U.S. Catholic Church. The organization provides direct long-term and short-term aid to relief victims. The aid they provide often includes food, water, home repairs, rebuilding, and cash assistance.
United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is the humanitarian organization of the United Methodist Church. This organization and its donors ship disaster relief kits around the world. Cleaning kits, Hygiene kits, and school kids are designed to help people keep living their daily lives after surviving a disaster. Volunteers can go to the UMC’s website to find instructions for assembling relief kits and to print shipping labels. They can then ship supplies directly to The United Methodist Committee on Relief for distribution.
Operation Blessing is a non-denominational Christian organization that vows to ease global human suffering through the “demonstration of God’s love.” This organization aids not only those affected by natural disasters but also refugees fleeing war-torn countries. This includes housing, food, shelter, and medical care. Operation Blessing also runs a program called Extreme Blessing Home Makeover, which rebuilds the home of those affected by disasters at no charge.
National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD)
National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster is an association of over 50 organizations that provide disaster relief services. These include religious, secular, and government-sponsored disaster relief charities where people affected by disasters can go for help in an emergency. Anyone with the proper experience can become a member of the NVOAD and help to coordinate disaster relief efforts by applying on the official National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster website.
How You Can Help
Every organization on this list relies at least mostly on donations and volunteers to provide disaster relief services for those in need. Donating is easier than ever. Just plug in the website of the disaster relief charities of your choice and donate instantly. But, don’t feel like you can’t help if you’re not able to afford to make a monetary donation. Time or item donations are also essential. Maybe you have a basement full of old camping equipment. This could provide shelter and safety for someone displaced by a hurricane. Or, perhaps you make a mean homemade chicken soup and would enjoy handing out hot meals to those in need of nourishment. Contact one of the disaster relief charities in your community, and find out what they need. Some will even arrange pick-up or transportation if you want to volunteer.
Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help in your time of need. And encourage your friends and family to do the same. There is no need to suffer when is available needlessly. Reach out to disaster relief charities that provide relief if you’ve been affected by a disaster. Then, ask them what they can do to help you survive as comfortably as possible. The number of services available may surprise you. Many even go beyond the primary responsibility of handing out bottled water, food and supplies. Many disaster relief organizations also provide cash assistance, housing, medical care, and even counseling, if you apply for them.
Preparedness is always the best plan, so choose an organization before you desperately need one. Create a disaster preparedness plan and review it often. Encourage your friends, family, and everyone else in your community to do the same. Consider donating money or volunteering your time. Choose the disaster relief charities you and your family would most likely turn to if you found yourselves in need. Then, you won’t feel like you’re getting something for nothing if you end up needing their services some day. Even if you never do, you’ll feel good. You’ll know that you’ve helped people at what was probably their lowest, most vulnerable moment in life. And you’ll know that there are people out there who will make sure that you are taken care of, should you ever end up on the other side of the disaster equation.