There has been a seven-year devastating war going on in Yemen with Saudi Arabia. Millions are in desperate need of medical care. It is not just war wounds but the destruction of infrastructure that has now led to increasing outbreaks of cholera. Medical teams are treating everything from war wounds and burns to cholera and diphtheria, working in the thick of a massive humanitarian crisis. Yet here in the United States, we do not have a clue what is happening in Yemen.
An Extra Challenge
Once we heard of this need, we partnered with Connect for Water to help. Yet we ran into a challenge. We could not ship life saving water filters directly from the States. It was impossible to import the filters. In order to get them to Yemen, we had to first ship them to South Africa and then combine the shipment with other goods from another non-profit organization.
Thankfully, the filters did finally make it to Yemen via another non-profit and five hundred household filters were distributed at two Internally Displaced Persons camps in Aden and Lahj. Please see the video below.
A Hope to Help More
Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation was also able to receive 1500 filters and move them to Sana’a to distribute to areas with the largest outbreaks of cholera. They are working with WHO and the ministry of health to select those areas.
These kinds of challenges overwhelm us, but we are thankful to have had a small part in making this project successful. We have so few answers. We try to do something with the resources we are given.
In recent decades, major advancements in technology have enabled people to be in constant contact with one another, communicating across the globe in seconds. We can watch world news happening in real-time, answer a question instantly, or share an exciting event with our families and friends with just the click of a button.
When a disaster strikes another country, we are instantly aware of it, with social media updates flooding our timelines. When someone is in need, we know about it quickly. We are connected to each other in unique ways never before possible.
Technology offers amazing opportunities to solve some of humanity’s most critical issues, and yet dependence on it hasn’t had such a positive result. Instead, we’ve become more isolated and disconnected at both the local and global level.
“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backward.” – Aldous Huxley
Societies are becoming more divided, governments are looking inward for their own solutions, and we’re losing our sense of charitable duty toward each other. We have forgotten what it means to be loving, kind, and generous. In all the social media updates, we’ve forgotten how to be humans who care about each other.
But despite finding ourselves in an environment of ever-increasing apathy and self-centeredness, there are actually a multitude of ways to generate a positive impact through practicing altruism, showing compassion, and most importantly, by taking real action.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Step #1: Look Around
Before you come up with an elaborate plan to achieve world harmony, take a look at the community you live in and formulate ways that you can make a positive contribution. Before you try to change the world, look at your own neighborhood.
A small effort can quickly grow into a remarkable movement, and by starting at the local level, you’ll establish relationships along the way with like-minded fellow citizens that also want to give something back.
Consider the case of Ryan Hreljac, creator of the Ryan’s Well Foundation, which raises money to drill wells for impoverished communities lacking adequate sources of drinking water. Ryan began his effort to help others as a young student in elementary school by raising $2,000 to build a single well in Uganda. Sixteen years later, he now runs a widely recognized non-profit that works to provide access to clean water in communities across the African continent and elsewhere.
Ryan’s work and the success of his foundation prove that one person, with one idea and the right kind of dedication, can start a movement at the local level that ultimately has a global impact and improves the daily lives of thousands of people.
“I think the important thing when I was a kid was that I recognized that I could try to do something small and get engaged. And even though I didn’t have all the answers and didn’t come from a position of affluence or knowledge …I had the optimism to do something small and that ended up making a big difference.” – Ryan Hreljac (Source)
One of the easiest, most obvious ways to make an immediate difference is through volunteering. Nearly every community has a need for volunteers of all different types. Hospitals usually have opportunities for students to help deliver mail and gifts to patient rooms, pass out trays at mealtimes, or help with tasks like changing sheets and blankets.
Non-profit community centers like homeless shelters or women’s homes need people to contribute with housekeeping, serving food to their residents and helping new occupants adjust and integrate into the facility.
Ministries frequently work side-by-side with shelter groups and your local faith-based organization can assist in finding out exactly what needs your community has and how you can best volunteer. Beyond that, local police and fire departments need citizen enforcers and volunteer firefighters to keep the peace while public schools and libraries frequently struggle to stay within their budgets and will often take all the help they can get.
Step #2 – Start Raising Funds For The Needy
Fundraising is another great way to help the community and promote global citizenship. Money can be raised in all kinds of ways and for many different causes and reasons.
For example, you might encourage students to start a local scholarship fund for their peers by collecting donations outside of grocery stores or other businesses. Starting an annual drive for coats, shoes, or general clothing is an excellent way to help others in need and some communities have even started a collection for outdated eyeglasses or loose change.
Donation drives place unwanted items into the hands of people that need them and actually have a positive impact on the environment by keeping those donated items from out of the garbage and the local landfill.
Step #3 – Be A Mentor
You can use the skills from your experience, education, or job to find ways to teach and mentor within the community. Career professionals might establish community workshops for teaching things like CPR, public safety, literacy, or computer skills.
Teachers and college professors might offer classes for English speakers to learn another language or to teach English to non-native speakers. Even if you don’t have a degree or special training, you might still be a great communicator that could mentor at-risk children in afterschool programs or participate in parenting or family support groups.
Step #4 – Help Promote Wellness
The need for public service is driven by the concept of the common good, or what is in the best interest of everyone involved. In recent years, neighborhoods and communities nationwide have struggled with the health and wellness of their populations and the trend has been moving too fast in the wrong direction.
Promoting a healthy lifestyle has immediate and long-term benefits to society and significantly impacts the viability of the population as a whole.
As of 2016, The American Heart Association reports that “childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.” (Source)
What are some simple ways you can help? Try inviting neighbors to participate in group activities that get you more active. Donate your time teaching yoga, strength training, or even martial arts if you’re already embracing a healthy lifestyle.
Consider starting a nutrition education program or neighborhood farming cooperative to help people learn about how to grow and build a diet full of nourishing foods.
Finally, working with city council boards or non-profit entities to provide mobile services like immunization clinics or veterinary care brings access to much-needed services directly to people without the means or transportation to access them. Lack of healthcare, nutrition, and physical exercise are major social problems in modern society and implementing measures to combat them will make a huge and potentially lifelong difference in your local community.
Step #4: Look Globally
At the worldwide level, it can be difficult to devise ways of making a positive contribution and improving global society but it is possible to find ways of reaching out to both individuals and whole communities.
“Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.” – Roy T. Bennett
People all over the world need someone to talk to. You can start out simply by finding a pen pal that you can converse with via traditional mail, e-mail, or even social media. Plenty of young people lack access to modern technology and offering them a friendly ear and a means to learn about the world outside of their own can be incredibly rewarding on both sides.
Beyond that, finding ways to communicate online with people on the other side of the world exposes you to different cultures, new information, and charitable causes, helping you develop a more open-minded and global perspective.
Step #5: Connect With Organizations Making A Difference
Fundraising at the national or international scale might seem daunting and like a task better suited for large charities and non-government organizations. The truth is that our modern world of constant connectedness gives individuals the same power to raise awareness campaigns as entities like the Red Cross and United Nations.
Web platforms for crowdsourcing funds (like Kickstarter or GoFundMe) give one person the ability to set a goal and start a movement that anyone can then contribute to. Social media services (like Facebook and Twitter) offer a means to get the word out on a global scale.
These technologies put the fundraising power that was previously reserved for large organizations into the hands of ordinary people who can then accomplish something extraordinary.
If you’re more interested in getting up from the computer to make a more hands-on positive impact, volunteering to work for government groups like The Peace Corps that focus primarily on social and economic development outside the United States would be great for someone that feels passionately about class inequality and equal access to opportunity.
Likewise, if you’re on a mission to minimize the negative impacts of climate change, organizations like Greenpeace or The Nature Conservancy are excellent non-profit volunteer groups.
Finally, if poor access to healthcare and lack of medicine in other parts of the world drives your desire to give back, consider supporting charitable professional associations like Doctors without Borders (a.k.a. Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF) and UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Joining a humanitarian or peacekeeping organization can be an extremely fulfilling way of participating in important international efforts while exercising responsible global citizenship.
Regardless of how you choose to engage in activism, participation in local and national elections by exercising your right to vote is, by far, the most effective way to shift national and international policy and each individual has a civil obligation to participate in the democratic process.
As of the 2016 American election, just over half of eligible Americans participated in voting and the United States ranks twenty-eighth on the list of thirty-five member nations belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (Source) We, as local residents, as national citizens, or as global humanity, don’t deserve positive change if we aren’t also willing to embrace the democratic process alongside social activism and participate in electing the right leaders for effective social evolution.
“A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case, he is justly accountable to them for the injury.” – John Stuart Mill
It’s a frighteningly common occurrence. As you scroll through your social feeds or watch the news, you hear of another disaster happening in another part of world. A hurricane in the Philippines, an earthquake in Nepal, a tsunami in Thailand. It’s sad. Grievous. Heartbreaking. And tremendously frustrating.
You desperately want to do something to help. To alleviate the pain and suffering. To make an actual difference in the world. But as you watch the footage and see the pictures, you feel so helpless. You want to take action but you don’t know what to do. You feel hamstrung. Stuck. Like you’re flailing at the air.
We understand your predicament, which is why we put this post together. We’re going to give you 4 practical ways you can get involved when a disaster strikes. These ideas range from high time, high commitment ideas to less involved solutions. No matter what your age or ability, there is always some way to help.
Daryn Kagan said, “Bad things do happen in the world, like war, natural disasters, disease. But out of those situations always arise stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”
You can be an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. Here’s how to get started.
Volunteer Your Time
You may not be able to donate money, but you can always donate your time. Relief organizations are always desperate for volunteers, and when a disaster strikes there are often too few boots on the ground.
In terms of ways to volunteer, the possibilities are almost unlimited. Some ideas include;
Collecting supplies that can be distributed to those who have been affected and those who are working to create a solution.
Lobbying community leaders and businesses to support the relief effort. This can be done both in person and through other means like email and social media.
Organizing a benefit dinner or event (think concert, comedy show, etc.).
Rallying local religious communities to support the relief effort. Many churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious organizations will be more than happy to donate time, money, or supplies.
When it comes to specific organizations to volunteer with, here are a few options:
90% of the Red Cross are volunteers, meaning that when a disaster strikes, they depend heavily on volunteers to come to the aid of those in distress.
They have a wide range of volunteer opportunities in different areas, and you can browse your location for opportunities here.
They may have positions possibly related to your area of expertise, for example: Administrative specialist, media relations, office assistant, donor experience lead, disaster services lead, real estate transaction assistant, etc. This allows you utilize your specific skills during times of crisis.
This Christian organization partners with churches in communities and works together to “share the love of Jesus Christ with people facing grief and uncertainty.”
As noted on their website, Samaritan’s Purse, “…mobilizes staff and equipment and enlists thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to victims of tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters in the U.S.”
They sometimes rebuild or restore houses for needy families.
Some of their current projects include: repairing and restoring homes damaged by June 2016 flooding in West Virginia, restore and repair homes damaged by August 2016 flooding in Louisiana, helping restore StraightWay Training Center, a faith based drug and alcohol rehab center in Texas.
This Christian, faith-based organization responds to numerous natural disasters, transportation accidents, civil unrest situations and terrorist attacks.
They offers disaster training programs to help individuals and communities prepare for emergency events.
They provide food service- offering meals, snacks and drinks to rescue workers and survivors.
They provide emotional and spiritual care to those affected by a disaster.
Volunteering is a hugely important way to get involved and make a difference during times of crisis. Non-profits don’t have the finances to maintain a fully staffed disaster team, making volunteers a critical part of their mission success.
Donate Your Money
One of the fastest, most practical ways to make a difference in a time of need is simply by donating money. Financial aid allows relief organizations to quickly get people on the ground and get supplies to those who desperately need them.
Additionally, giving financially allows relief organizations to funnel the resources toward what is needed most, whether that’s food, machinery, medicine, or equipment.
One thing that’s important when giving finances to relief efforts: only give money to trusted organizations who will use the resources wisely. Unfortunately, fraudulent charities are a real thing. They take advantage of the pain of others to make a profit for themselves.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the American Red Cross asked the FBI to investigate at least 15 fake websites that were designed to look like legitimate Red Cross appeals for donations. Even before Katrina hit, internet fraud experts saw scammers registering dozens of websites with Katrina in their names. After Hurricane Sandy, one charity calling itself the Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort raised $600k for storm victims, but it was all actually a ploy to help a couple of con artists with their own credit card relief.
These kinds of people give disaster relief a bad name and take resources away from those who legitimately need them.
In light of this, only give to organizations who are reputable.
The Red Cross accepts donations on their website, as well as by text, email, and a host of other methods. You can also give blood at the Red Cross.
You can become a monthly donor to UNICEF and provide children with lifesaving vaccines and insecticide-treated bed nets, emergency relief after natural disasters, educational opportunities, and more.
The Salvation Army accepts donations of goods and supplies and money. They ask that you check with your local Salvation Army to confirm the need after the disaster. Rarely are clothing, cars and furniture needed for disaster relief, but those donations help support the day-to-day of the Salvation Army.
We also offer a variety of ways to donate and bring relief to those who desperately need it.
Giving a small portion of your income to those in need can have an exponential effect. Lifesaving supplies can be given to those affected by tragedy, allowing you to play a key role in lessening the pain and suffering.
Advocate and Raise Awareness
When disaster strikes, a simple way to get involved is to advocate for change and raise awareness. For example, through the UNICEF website, you can support legislative advocacy for children’s rights. You can also sign various petitions on the website Change.org, like this one to intervene on behalf of children in Aleppo.
Another simple way to make a difference is to raise awareness. Most people are simply in the dark in terms of how they can help when disaster strikes. You can inform and educate people through social media, community involvement, and charity events, similar to how the “March For Life” raises funds and awareness regarding premature birth.
Get Paid To Help
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is a federal agency that provides “financial assistance and, if necessary, direct services to eligible individuals and households who, as a direct result of a major disaster, have necessary expenses and serious needs and are unable to meet such expenses or needs through other means.”
If you want to make disaster relief a bigger part of your life, you can actually become a reservist for FEMA. Reservists assist disaster survivors and have the opportunity to travel, receive training, and build a professional network. They are appointed for a 2-year period and are the main FEMA workforce during an emergency or disaster that assists the agency in accomplishing its mission.
This probably can’t be your full time job due to the intermittent nature of disasters, but it does provide a way for you to get closely integrated into aid work. You can learn more about becoming a reservist here.
A Few Things To Consider
When choosing how to help in times of disaster, here are a few things to consider.
How much time do you have? Obviously, the more time you have the more involved your relief efforts can be. If you are strapped for time, you can donate money, sign petitions, and raise awareness. If you have the bandwidth to be more involved, you can become a reservist or volunteer.
How much stamina do you have? Disaster relief work is both emotionally and physically taxing. Those who volunteer need more stamina and energy than those who donate or raise awareness. If you are chronically ill or have a low emotional tolerance, you may want to consider raising awareness and donating.
Are you physically prepared? If you’re going to volunteer on location at a disaster, you need to be physically ready. Traveling is exhausting, disease and sickness are prevalent, and you may need to update your immunizations. Physical preparedness is crucial when volunteering on location, and a lack of it can actually be harmful to you.
To be clear, all types of relief are helpful, whether it’s volunteering or donating cash. You simply need to choose the one that is the best fit for who you are.
Marsha Blackburn said, “In this dangerous world that we live in, where hatred and violence and natural disasters sometimes collide to almost overwhelm us, we each can help in some way.”
Yes, we all truly can help each other in some way, and when disaster strikes, it’s crucial that all of us work together.
Don’t think that you have no power to make a difference. By simply getting involved, you can transform lives and relieve suffering.
As natural disasters become more frequent, we need your help.
Help bring clean water to the people in Chennai, India.
Each year in December we have individuals who give a donation in the name of a loved one for the purchase of water filters. We use these funds to pay for the shipping and cost of filters delivered to vulnerable families desperate for clean and safe water. For $75.00 you can provide a filter kit delivered to a country or crisis area of your choice. They can use this on any water source for the next 3-5 years ensuring continued health for their family.
Business Connect is registered as a Low Profit Limited Liability Company, that is, our bottom line is both profit and positive social impact. To date, in 2015, through gifts like yours, we were able to donate 1,400 clean water filters to the post-earthquake response in Nepal, 300 filters to World Renew in Nepal, 30 filters to flood victims in Malawi, 20 to especially vulnerable families in Mexico, and 500 to Congolese refugee families in a Mozambique refugee camp. Although not in the media, there is such a crisis right now in Chennai, India. Not surprisingly it is not on our national news but the flooding is affecting tens of thousands of people. Our representative in India, Chandra Reddy, has alerted us to the situation. Over 188 people have already died to this crisis. Please check out this source:
As we celebrate the New Year, I am giving thanks for your past generosity. Should you desire to give a gift to Business Connect in the name of someone, we will give you a report on how your gift was used. Since we are a business we cannot give you a tax deductible receipt. However, we partner with Partners Worldwide, a 501c3 registered charity who can give you that tax deductible receipt. Here are the options:
1. Make out your check to Business Connect; post to 3888 16th Avenue, Grandville, MI. 49418.
2. Make out your check to Partners Worldwide; post to 6139 Tahoe, Grand Rapids, MI 49546. They will take out five percent to cover their cost and provide you a receipt and an end of year statement. Please note on your check: Clean and Safe Water – Business Connect.