Thursday, December 25, 2008

What's the best way to help survivors?

An old article from Disaster News Network: After riveting disaster images evaporate from TV news, public compassion dries up - just when disaster survivors need focused help. Months, weeks - sometimes even days - after a disaster, it's hard to recreate the wave of "armchair urgency" people feel when they're soaking in graphic footage. Some people show up early at a disaster site with good intentions but little preparation, said Bernard Scrogin, a veteran responder with Lutheran Social Services of Texas and Louisiana.

"That caused some problems in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina," he explained. "Some volunteer groups down there got a call from people who said, 'hey, 200 of us are getting on buses, and we're coming down tomorrow to do work.' They went down there with no transportation, no equipment - just ill-prepared. Their hearts are in the right place but we're trying to help people realize they need to think ahead."

That means getting affiliated with a responding group - and often helping out months down the road during long-term recovery.

Until then, give cash, agreed responders. "I know people don't like to hear that the best thing they can do is give money," said Tom Hazelwood, executive secretary for U.S. disaster response for the United Methodist Committee on Relief. "The best thing a person can do is to be in touch with their denomination's response office to find about about specific needs. And, frankly, the biggest need is likely to be money."...

Swedish life preserver at lake Ringsjƶn in Scania. Shot by David Castor, Wikimedia Commons

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