effective help

There are good ways and not so good ways to help victims of disaster from a distance. Stick with the methods that work unless you have a very specific talent or resource to help in another way.

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina is overwhelming. Many are calling this the worst disaster in the history of the United States, and they may very well be right.

So what can I do?

The fastest and most efficient way of helping (if you are not actually in the disaster area) is to donate money to relief organizations. My personal choice is the American Red Cross. These folks know what they are doing and are on the ground running to help those in need. What they don’t need from us is a load of uncoordinated supplies of whatever you have lying around that you may think is useful. Some folks have asked for clothing, diapers and other things to be sent to the area but I won’t even know where to send it. If someone can educate me as to why that’s a better idea than what I’m suggesting, please let me know.

Donating money may seem an impersonal choice in light of the emotions that surround such a disaster and our innate need to personally help others. There are several reasons this is probably the best choice. I’ll explain a couple of my own reasons.

First of all, I have no idea what is needed. I’m pretty sure that water and food are in short supply, but how can I get it there? Second, I have faith in the ability of these relief organizations to get the job done. They are very good at it. They have the infrastructure and expertise to deal with the myriad problems that are being confronted in the region. The biggest obstacle I think they face in getting the job done is making sure that they have the financial resources to buy the supplies, transport them into the area, facilitate evacuation and get their workers to where they are needed. I can best help them do that by sending some of my hard-earned dollars.

The Minnesota Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has a handy guide to how you can help linked on their front page (it’s a .pdf file). Check it out and then do what you can to help.