During times of disaster and tragedy, one of the first things people worry about is money. Gas/food prices rise, basic necessities like clean clothes and clean water are out of reach, and thousands of dollars in damages have occurred. The people effected turn towards donation centers to fulfill their needs while they try to rebuild their lives.
A few days after Hurricane Harvey hit southeast Texas, ads for the American Red Cross (ARC) and Salvation Army began to flood all media channels: television, radio, social media, etc. Thousands of people pull out their credit and debit cards from their wallets and donate whatever money they can, thinking that it will truly make a difference.
In 2010, when a deadly earthquake hit the island of Haiti, ARC created the campaign “Haiti Assistance Project” that raised $487 million from people all across the world to aid the country and its people. This was more than enough money to help Haitians recover from the natural disaster, however, the only report of the funds being used effectively is sourced from a letter written by Senator Charles Grassley (a U.S. Senate finance committee member). Senator Grassley reports that food rations for over one million people were made and that thousands of temporary shelters were built. Unfortunately, that’s as far as the funds went. There were supposed to be 700 permanent homes made and only six were made.
The Salvation Army is another resource that calls for donations in times of need, however when it comes to helping people in need, the tables seem to turn. There have been several complaints made about how the faith-based, international charity treats transgender women. A Texas native has shared her story about how the Dallas Salvation Army denied her access to a two-year housing program because she hasn’t had gender affirming surgery. Along with being very anti-LGBTQ+, 25% of the Salvation Army’s budget is used on expenses other than direct programming such as administrative costs and other fundraising efforts.
When people don’t have the necessary funds to donate money they often turn to donating new or gently used items that they think people affected by natural disasters need. These items range anywhere from clothes, to diapers, and even stuffed animals. However these items are often unusable and can cause more harm than good. After Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras in 1998, a mass amount of donated clothes prevented a plane that was loaded with supplies from landing since the donated clothes were scattered across the runway.
Although it may seem like you can’t donate anything, there are a lot of ways you can help places affected by natural disasters. Donation to local food pantries and shelters can be more reliable, instead of national charities who may or may not use your donations in an effective manner. Donating time and going to places where you can help assist in clean ups or rebuilding of homes is a direct way to benefit the people affected. Lastly, if it your only option is to give monetary donations, be sure to research which charities are going to put donated money to the best use.