This post originally was published on March 7, 2019, on the ICTG blog.
One of the greatest challenges after any major disaster is providing effective help as quickly as possible. Too often, though, this effort becomes greatly hindered by an onslaught of donated materials or well-meaning people interjecting themselves without paying attention to the directions of local or experienced 1st and 2nd responders. “Disasters within disasters” is the label often given to the logistical mess of coordinating storage and processing of all the things and finding housing for the unaffiliated volunteers and tracking their credentials or affiliations only detracts from the actual needs and ability of the local leadership and the disaster relief agencies that are encouraging local response.
Above: "Tens of thousands of stuffed animals, donated to the children of Newtown, Conn., following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, fill a warehouse. Most were sent away." - Best Intentions: When Disaster Relief Brings Anything But Relief
How can you avoid hindering disaster response, and making sure your effort to help makes the helpful difference you want it to make, rather than another mini-disaster?
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.
Above: "Thousands of food and clothing items are organized by Occupy Sandy volunteers in a school gymnasium in Rockaway Park, Queens, after Superstorm Sandy in November." - The Second Disaster: Making Well-Intentioned Donations Useful
If you are not in a position to find out specific information from survivors and local responders, here are additional ways to make sure your contribution provides the most help:
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.
Above: Viral photos of the thousands of abandoned water bottles after Hurricane Maria
Expanding understanding and best practices for leadership and whole-community care.