Disasters: How to Help
Disasters — like earthquakes, war, wildfires, or severe weather events — can happen close to home or far away. But when we hear the news, it affects us. We feel for the people who might be hurt and the communities that are damaged. It has a deeper impact if you know people who are affected.
It can be more stressful if a disaster happens close to home or affects people you know. It’s good to talk about what’s going on, and how you feel. Talk with your friends and adults in your life. Be a good listener for others who might want to talk.
It’s also good to find a way to help. When we turn our empathy into action, we can do something that matters.
What Can I Do?
There are things that everyone can do to help those who need it. Even small actions and small donations make a difference. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Find out what kind of help people need.
Check the website of a group like the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders. Or reach out to a local community center (like the YMCA), places of worship, or other organizations that are set up to help. They know what people need most and the best ways to help. You can pitch in to support their efforts.
Depending on the situation, a relief group may need donations of food, water, or other supplies. They may need volunteers for a clean-up project, or to set up homes for refugees, or to pack boxes of food or supplies. Often, raising money helps the most.
If you plan to donate supplies, check a group's social media to find out what's most needed. Or ask for a list. Choose what to give based on their information. That way, they don’t have to spend money storing or handling extra stuff they can’t use.
Get others to join you.
Working with others for a good cause is a way to bond. And more people-power means more help for those who need it. You could decide to do something as a family. Or you could do something at school, or with people in a community you belong to.
Get together to talk about the plan. Talk through the details. Figure out who will do what. If you want to do something at school, you might need to ask a teacher to be part of it.
Plan what you’ll do, and make it happen. Here are some things you might need to do to carry out your plan:
- Let’s say you plan to collect supplies. After you find out what's needed, you’ll want to post a list of what to bring and when and where to drop it off. You might need a drop-off box and a place to store the items.
- What if you’re planning a fundraiser event? What will it be? Maybe it’s a silent auction, car wash, bake sale, 5K, or dance-a-thon. Decide when and where to hold your event, and how you’ll let people know. An event like this will take more planning.
- Be sure to let people know how their giving matters and who will benefit. If you do an event, someone could say a few words. Or you could use posters or social media to explain.
- After the event, you’ll need to decide how to sort items and get your donation to the charity. Work out all the steps.
Why Does It Matter?
Your actions help others. Giving is a way to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Even small acts of kindness and giving have an effect. It reminds others that they are not alone. And that there are people who are willing to help.
Giving is good for you, too. Think about what you’ve gained from giving. Did you make new friends? Bond with people in your life? Find new leadership skills? Have fun doing hard work? Did you use strengths like creativity, planning, tech skills, or teamwork? Maybe you deepened some inner strengths, like compassion and gratitude. Maybe you found a new passion for helping or service.
Think about what it meant to you. You probably noticed how good it feels to be part of something that matters. And to know you can make a difference in someone’s life.