Helping after Disaster

September 9, 2017

Friends (for #3, below): Disciples Volunteering has created a link for gathering email addresses, in order to update those who are interested in serving with disaster-affected communities when the time is right: click here to receive periodic updates.

What can be said in a moment like this? What to say when hurricanes and typhoons and wildfires are battling for headlines, while house fires and car accidents and other local tragedies are relegated to back page news? Maybe it’s as simple as stating the obvious: All are vulnerable; all have the capacity to help. And the more we engage in helping, the more we decrease vulnerabilities – for ourselves and for others. Because helping builds community. It’s a two way street. It isn’t just for the person receiving help – the helper is also changed.

When we think of vulnerability, we usually think first of physical factors (which we may or may not be able to address). But there are relational factors, too. Sometimes helping builds community in the smallest, yet most important, of ways. It draws us closer to our neighbor. It makes us more sensitive to the vulnerabilities of others. It strengthens our compassion, our capacity to care and to be cared for.

So, we ask, how can we help? What can we do now? Here are four starting points:
1) Be in prayer. It strengthens community in ways we may never know.
2) Share. But only give what is needed and specifically requested. And in the face of something big, remember that financial gifts are the most helpful, especially in the immediate response.
3) Care. Care enough to respond appropriately. That includes not “running into the fire” (unless that’s your job and training) – in large-scale disasters, self-deployed volunteers create burdens on local responders, faith leaders, and others when their needs (for housing, for work, for food and gas) add to the burden of meeting needs within the affected community. Instead, seek out an organization to work through which can channel your skills where they are needed. And care enough to continue following the recovery: odds are good that your help will be needed well after the disaster has faded from the headlines. (One way to do this – click the link above!)
4) Prepare. Prepare to respond differently the next time disaster strikes. Get the training you need to appropriately respond the way you feel called to now. Prepare yourself, your family, your place of worship, and your workplace in case the next disaster is closer to home.