Begin by listening carefully to what survivors most directly impacted by disaster and local responders with first hand knowledge say they need. Often, local agencies will begin posting specific needs on their websites or other social media outlets.
- Make a financial contribution to trusted organizations who are working with survivors. These are the most helpful ways of contributing, and will ensure your contribution is used in ways survivors feel is most helpful. This may include providing financial gifts to 1st responder organizations, 2nd responder organizations (like local counseling centers, social service agencies, or congregations), local long-term recovery groups, or larger national organizations, including ICTG, with expertise in disaster response.
- Consider providing local care where you are, as well. If you are far away from the location of a disaster, many people often do not realize how very much there is to do right in their own backyard. For example, if you are heartbroken for what has occurred far away, chances are that your neighbor is too. Extending local care, in honor of those hurting far away, can produce ripple effects of healing, and can avoid creating mini-disasters in disaster zones. Volunteering can be a helpful form of response when you cannot give financially.
- Volunteer. If you are someone who feels strongly about giving to or going to a disaster zone, please consider joining a reputable disaster relief agency. By working through these organizations you will save yourself and those on the ground a great deal of extra, unnecessary, work.
- Educate others. Education helps people prepare well for the next event that may occur in closer proximity. Education also helps squelch rumors. Providing forums for learning about mental health, natural storms, and effects of violence on persons and communities, as well as common law enforcement, emergency response best practices, insurance practices after disaster, and social work practices, can all help to diminish speculation and inform persons about next steps. For example, hosting two or three town-hall or congregation meetings can ease anxiety and increase senses of trust. Topic-specific adult and youth education classes also are very helpful.
- Begin planning a rebuild trip. If you are far away, but want to make a difference in-person, consider coordinating with a reputable agency and planning a rebuild trip for six to nine months from now.
In these days of mass media, local communities become deeply impacted by distant events. Keeping eyes, ears, and hearts peeled to how service providers, individuals, families, and lay caregivers can best use their skills and passions to respond to local impact can greatly increase resiliency, decrease anxiety, and make growth contagious.