Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 Hurricane, hit Houston, Texas and the surrounding areas leaving thousands of people stranded and without access to shelter, food, and electricity. First responders have done an amazing job to help bring people and animals to safety, but the work is only beginning.
Hurricane Irma has hit the Caribbean Islands. The island of Barbuda has sustained heavy damage. There are 28 island nations in the Caribbean with over 7,000 individual islands. According to the National Weather Service, the entire state of Florida and several of our eastern states could see damage from Irma. Rains and heavy winds may cause damage in several inland states as well.
If your area could be evacuated, refill any medical prescriptions you may need, scan important documents (deeds, wills, insurance info, health records) into your computer and back up everything on a memory stick or disk to take with you. Make sure to have a plan for your family and your pets.
Now is a perfect time to make or review an emergency plan for your family even if you do not live in these areas. Fire department websites often have several tips to help you do this. Be mindful of pets, small children, senior citizens, and any members of your family with disabilities.
As I’m writing this, Irma’s path could change. I was raised in Florida and lived in Texas for several years, so I have friends and family who have been affected by Harvey and stand to be affected by Irma. I know I’m not alone. We all want to help, and help will be needed for many months.
There are several ways to help the people and communities involved.
Before you start gathering up food or clothing to donate, pick up the phone, write a check, or jump in your car to go help, be aware of what will do the most good in both situations. This is not meant to be critical of anyone, but help is only useful if it actually benefits/reaches the people who need it.
If you are a trained first responder, thank you. If you are not, but you want to volunteer, please check with the organizations coordinating volunteers to be sure you will sent to the place you are needed and your skill set matches their needs. You need to have somewhere to stay and emergency services need to keep roads clear.
If you want to donate items of clothing, blankets, food or water please understand that there have to be designated areas set up to receive any donations and the manpower to sort and distribute these items. It’s still a wet mess in Houston, and it will be in the areas affected by Irma, so the ability to keep donations dry and accessible is challenging. A suggestion made to me has been for people to hold garage sales and send the money to one of the charities in place, so they can buy what is needed or distribute vouchers to victims, so they can get the items they need.
Before you send money, beware of scams - make sure your donation will go where it is needed. Get the facts before you give, and don’t rely on your cousin’s brother’s wife’s nephew’s barber’s opinion about a particular charity. Everybody has an opinion, but sometimes they are incorrect. Do a little research to see which organizations have been and currently are “boots on the ground” working during these disasters.
Listed below are three organizations that serve as watch dogs for charitable organizations:
· Charity Watch – https://charitywatch.org/ratings
· Charity Navigator – https://charitynavigator.org
· BB Wise Giving Alliance – https://give.org
Here are some suggested ways to help Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts:
If You Live In Texas or the Surrounding Areas:
· The Houston Food Bank and the Food Bank of Corpus Christi are asking for donations.
· The City of Houston Emergency Operations Center has posted a list of places where you can drop off donations.
For People outside Texas:
· The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund was set up by the mayor of Houston - Make an online donation via iTunes.
· The Red Cross is accepting online donations. To donate via your phone, text HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
· The Salvation Army is accepting online donations. To make a donation through your phone, simply text STORM to 51555.
· Save the Children is accepting online donations. To make a donation through your phone, simply text HURRICANE to 20222 to donate $25 to the Harvey Children’s Relief Fund.
· Global Giving set up a Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which supports local organizations by helping to “meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter.”
For Hurricane Irma Relief efforts:
Global Giving Irma Relief Fund:
Global giving is highly regarded by charity watch dogs. The organization vets local organizations working in areas hit by disasters to be sure your money is being used where it's needed most.
Unicef estimates there are over 10 million children in the Caribbean who have been affected by Hurricane Irma
The American Red Cross: www.redcross.org/
Oxfam is currently working in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba, some of the areas most affected by Hurricane Irma and Oxfam is preparing for Hurricane Jose.
You can follow Oxfam on twitter to receive updates on their rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma:
To remember our four legged friends displaced by Hurricane Irma:
You can follow the ASPCA on twitter to receive updates on their rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma:
Best Friends Animal Society
Asking for donations or volunteers to help animals affected by the hurricane.
Not every animal in need is a domesticated pet
South Florida Wildlife Center
Please remember our neighbor Mexico.
They responded with aid during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and most recently after Hurricane Harvey in Houston, volunteers from the Mexican Red Cross came to Texas to help.
Mexico had also planned to send a caravan of trucks filled with food and supplies before disaster struck their own country.
Now, after an 8.1 magnitude earthquake and heavy rains from Hurricane Katia, they are in need of our help.
Please go to the Global Giving website to see how you can help Mexico.
Thanks and stay safe!
*The images used here are not from Hurricane Harvey, Irma, or Katia - these are images from pexels.com.