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How to Help Flood Victims

By George Hadgelias

Floods can be devastating. Depending on the severity, flood victims might lose everything they have: their homes, their jobs, even their loved ones. Whether it’s donating a dollar or volunteering to rebuild damaged houses, there are a several ways to lend a helping hand to those in need.

1.Find out where the flood happened. Chances are you already have a specific flood trajectory in-mind, but if you don’t or aren’t abreast with smaller-scaled floods happening throughout the world, the first step is to find out which regions have suffered floods and need help.

  • Depending on where the flood occurred, different humanitarian organizations will be involved in coordinating relief efforts.
  • If the flood occurred in the United States, chances are the American Red Cross and Salvation Army will be marshalling aid and leading relief efforts.
  • If it is an international natural disaster, check to see if UNICEF or AmeriCares are providing aid in the affected area.
  • Visit the organization’s website or call to find out what kind of aid they are providing and how you can best get involve2. Stay informed and up-to-date over time.
  • As the needs change, so will the ways you can help — some ways might be more inline with your abilities or resources over others.
    • Different needs will arise at different moments in the crisis. For instance, there will be emergent needs in the immediate aftermath as well as long-term rebuilding needs for years to come.
    • Sometimes an organization will reach maximum capacity with certain types of donations (like clothing), but have a deficit in another area. The best way to know what is most needed is to frequently check-in with the status of their aid efforts and need by calling or looking for updates on their social media accounts.

3.Decide how you would like to help.
There are several ways to get involved, and each has their own pros and cons as detailed below in and in the following sections.

If you have extra funds or goods, you might consider making monetary donations. If you have time, skills, or other supportive resources to offer in lieu of monetary donations, you can offer these to those in need.

  • There are pros/cons for each this type of involvement: for donations, a pro is that you can act quickly and put resources in the hands of organizations who can decide how to best help the victims. A con to making donations is that you don’t necessarily know if all of your money will go directly to the victims (be sure to research how organizations administer donations before you give to them). One of the biggest pros of volunteering instead of donating money is that you get to feel like you really providing hands-on helps while interacting with people. A potential con is the danger and risk of injury associated with traveling to flood zones.

4. Donate goods. If you have extra or unneeded items laying around, consider donating them to flood victims in need.[2]

  • Gently used clothing, socks, shoes, bedding, and blankets are almost always in need after a devastating flood.
  • You can also help the children affected by floods by sending them books and toys.
  • Purchase and donate new, non-perishable food items and bottled drinking water.
  • First aid kits, tents, mosquito netting, soap, and hygiene products might also be needed.

Make a monetary donation. Sending money is an easy and effective way to help.

  • Be sure that you are donating to a reputable organization like The Salvation Army, American Red Cross, or UNICEF. Unfortunately, some sham organizations can crop up in the aftermath of disasters as ploys to steal well-intentioned donations.[1]
  • Ask if you can make a donation via text message. A recent trend among aid organizations is to provide a phone number and keyword for people to make a donations. The amount you give will show up on your next mobile phone bill. It’s as easy as sending a text message, and much more meaningful!

Donate blood. Floods can cause serious injuries and there may be a need for more blood after a the disaster. If there’s a blood drive in your area, and if you meet the health/age requirements, consider becoming a donor.

Donate your leave time. Some large companies, especially governmental agencies or offices, allow people to donate their unused sick time or vacation leave to others in need. Contact the human resources representative at your work and ask if you can transfer some of your leave time to those unable to work as a result of the flood.

Volunteer in the affected area. If it’s safe enough to travel to the afflicted area, see if aid organizations are looking for volunteers to help on the ground.

  • If you meet height, weight, age, fitness, education, and U.S. citizenship requirements, consider joining the National GuardThe National Guard is a part-time, locally organized branch of the U.S. military that responds to natural disasters (both in the U.S. and sometimes abroad) as part of their call of duty.[3]After completing basic training, you can chose a short-term enlistment (three years) and then continue to be a member of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) who are called up in the event of emergencies like natural disasters.[4]
  • Consider volunteering with Habitat for Humanities or other organizations whose mission is to clear debris, help homeowners salvage their personal belongings, and rebuild damaged homes.

Volunteer your professional services. Your time and talents are a valuable resource and can help those in need.[6]

  • If you are a health care professional, see if you can donate your medical services or supplies.
  • If you are a contractor or work in construction, volunteer your manpower, supplies, and other resources towards rebuilding efforts.
  • If you are an educator or child care worker, offer to provide support and assistance with displaced families and their children.
  • If you are a business owner, especially in the area surrounding the flood, offer discounts or gratis goods/services to those affected by the floods.

Volunteer outside of the affected area. Even if you can’t be there on the ground, you can still make a big difference by volunteering.

  • Get in touch with the local branch of the aid organization working with flood victims and see if they need help in their call center, hotline, or donation processing facility. [7]
  • You can also become a community liaison by collecting local donations and bringing them to the regional sorting facility.
Offer shelter. If you live nearby the flood area and your house is intact, consider fostering a displaced family who may have lost their home and everything they own in the disaster

Offer spiritual support. Many people rely on their faith during times of crisis and draw emotional and spiritual strength from the support of church and religion.

  • If you are part of a church or religious organization, encourage your leaders to reach out to flood victims with support as well as tangible aid.
  • Some large religious organization, like the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, send crisis-trained chaplains into areas impacted by natural disasters to coordinate relief efforts and provide further emotional and spiritual support for those affected.[9]
  • If you are a spiritual person, pray for the flood victims and/or reflect for a moment on the situation. Open your heart to ways you can help, and be a comfort to those in need.

Offer emotional support. In additional to other forms of help, you can make some basic, caring gestures towards those in need.[10]

  • Ask how you can be most helpful to those affected by the flood. They might need a hot, home cooked meal, help taking care of their pets, or photographing flood damage for insurance claims.
  • Be a good listener and remember that sometimes its best to just listen and not offer your own opinions or solutions without being asked for them.
  • Remember that people need support in the days, months, and even years following natural disasters. Be sensitive to the fact that new issues and difficulties can continue to arise, even after the flood waters subside.

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