WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT... HURRICANE MARIA?
Hurricane Maria tore through the Caribbean, hitting the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands especially hard. 10 people have already been lost, entire towns leveled, and Puerto Rico is expecting to go a whopping six months without power for the vast majority of the population.
With some of the hardest-hit areas already experiencing a debt crisis, victims are in need of outside support more than ever before. Let’s find ways that can work for each of us. (updated 30 Sept 2017)
Send the basics
First things first: DO NOT send unsolicited donations or try to ship goods without going through a verified receiver. For real, guys. Puerto Rico and the USVI are already struggling transportation and logistics, so anything unaccounted for or unsolicited could do more harm than good.
OK, now that we've got that covered, check out this list of emergency supples that the government of Puerto Rico is requesting. Do you have some baby wipes, mosquito repellant, or work gloves in good condition? That's great! Go ahead and fill out a donation application to see if a verified disaster responder can receive these items.
Share like you're there
Do you feel like you're not seeing much about the disaster coming from the residents of Puerto Rico and USVI? That's because much of their power, cell service, and wifi have been knocked out, so communication is extremely limited.
Be their voice to ensure they receive aid and attention. Set a schedule that works for you (for example, 3 days) and post one update a day about essential needs, individual stories, or solutions that you would care about if you were there. Start with the Puerto Rican government or USVI for local updates, and share your favorites.
DO NOT mislead people that you're actually on the ground, as this could spread fake information. Instead, try to see the disaster from their perspective and share what would be most important to you if you were there.
Holla at your reps
Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are both U.S. territories that were incredibly devastated by the onslaught from Hurricane Maria. And both were already in the midst of a crippling debt crisis that has doubled-down on the disastrous impact.
Take a few minutes to call your representative and insist that they provide long-term relief funding. We've got to stand up for our fellow Americans and give them the support that they need to come back from this humanitarian crisis.
Double-down on your input
Get more for your dollar! Facebook is currently matching donations to Save the Children up to $1 million (and waiving fees). Pitch in and send twice the help to a top aid organization that is working to provide disaster relief.
You can also check in with your employer or favorite places to shop. Many companies are matching donations, so you could give extra bucks.
Or donate to other top relief organizations directly:
Habitat for Humanity is rebuilding
UNICEF is providing supplies
SPCA is sheltering homeless pets
TIP: Keep track of your donations
Schedule your next trip
You shelled out some of your own hard-earned cash to help others - because you're awesome like that.
Don’t close the books when the money’s been spent. Keep track of your donations, so that you can write them off come tax season. You’ll get a deduction for charitable efforts, and everyone wins.
Check out these tips from Forbes. Don't save it for April - get on it now so no dollar goes un-checked.
Do you want to get hands-on and help directly with the clean-up, but are finding that it’s not easy to pick up and go? Even so, in some cases, self-deploying in the immediate aftermath can create a logistical burden for aid organizations. Don't fret - you've got time.
It’ll take months, if not years, to completely recover after Irma. Put a reminder on your calendar for a few months from today to check in with disaster relief organizations to see how you can help. Even better - plan it for your next family or friends vacation, and invite someone to join you.
Swing by your local blood drive
Three back-to-back hurricanes have left hospitals across the U.S. without power or with limited resources. They're stretched thin, but still need to provide for patients.
Help 'em out. Find your nearest blood bank and donate. It only takes about an hour, so you can schedule it on your lunch break, between errands, or before you meet a friend for dinner.
Poll your people
Tomorrow, talk to someone in your circle - at your next happy hour, housewarming party, or when you're waiting for a meeting to start.
Poll the people you’re closest to and find out: what are they doing? Do they have a family member in need of a remote translator? Do they have a friend who is overwhelmed by insurance or FEMA paperwork and could use a proof-reader? You might find more unique and personal ways to connect through the folks who you're closest to.
But don’t forget: do a little digging on your own to verify before you send money, goods, or yourself anywhere. Start with Charity Navigator, and spend a few minutes on Google.
Did we miss something awesome?
Share your ideas!
WHAT CAN I DO is ever-expanding, and we need your input to share the best opportunities.