Thursday, December 30, 2004

How to donate to Asian disaster relief

I’ve been quiet the past few days, thinking about the tragedy in Asia. 114,000 dead, death toll sure to rise. Trying to avoid the news and getting depressed, and at the same time, I can’t. In a situation like this, I feel as helpless and yet I want to do something to help.

So I’ve decided to devote this blog entry to encourage anyone reading it to donate and how to donate carefully and wisely. Working for a large international relief organization for 11 years, I know a little about giving. My organization doesn’t help Asia, but many worthy charities do. So how do you pick one to donate to?

I recommend visiting this web site to check out charities:

Charity Navigator investigates non-profits and their finances and rates them. The highest rating, which my charity has, is four stars. Here’s some tips on giving from Charity Navigator:

1) Give to an established charity.
2) Designate your gift to go towards the cause you want to help (i.e. mark on the check and the envelope – Asian tsunami relief)
3) Avoid telemarketers.
4) Research the charity.

My own advice? I like to give to organizations that can quickly mobilize and have resources in place to help the most urgent needs. The most urgent needs are medical assistance, food, water, blankets, tents for housing, vaccinations against diseases like cholera and hepatitis (which I should get and never did after 11 years of traveling the Third World), and medical supplies. Doctors without Borders is a wonderful organization that sends medicine and trained medical personnel to disaster areas.

The Red Cross is good, BUT be SURE to mark your gift (Asian Tsunami relief!) Otherwise it could go into the general fund and help here in America. Or you can give to the INTERNATIONAL Red Cross, a separate organization. Here’s their web site:

I personally like Oxfam,
although their charity navigator rating is only a 3 out of 4 stars. I like them because I’ve seen their teams on the ground in disasters, such as the Gonaives flooding in Haiti. (And their driver had the sense NOT to fall off the road and tip the vehicle, lol) And UNICEF is wonderful. The United Nations Children’s Fund is a fantastic organization.

Another favorite of mine is World Vision.
They’re a Christian charity that help everywhere, regardless of denominations. Wonderful programs that teach job skills to indigent mothers, etc. A friend worked for them for a year in Afghanistan and our organization worked with them in Jamaica after the flooding there. We helped them store supplies and worked with them to get bottled water, food, etc. to the hurricane victims. In a crisis like this, charities all pitch in together.

So no matter who you chose to send your gift to, it counts. You may think whatever you can give won’t be more than a drop in the bucket compared to the need of 5 million survivors, but consider that your drop, combined with other drops, creates an ocean. Every dollar counts. You’d be amazed at how charities can get the most bang for your buck. My organization can feed a starving family of four for more than two months with a gift of only $20. Other charities are equally resourceful.

Think of it this way: if your gift could help save just one life of someone who survived the horror of this tragedy, wouldn’t that make a difference to you?

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