Written by Nandita Batheja
Banding Together In Chaos
It’s Monday, September 11th. For some, perhaps, it’s just another week. But for many, it is a particularly heavy Monday.
Though New York scrambles and speeds along at its normal pace, though the sun is out, the date is embalmed in the city’s history. As a New Yorker, I find it hard not to slow down, not to feel the weighted palm of memory and loss.
And—as 9/11 calls us to remember the tragedy in our past—mother earth has unleashed her own torrent of trauma to face right now.
When I greet people today, there is a moment of hesitation as words cycle through my mouth. What to check in about first? Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma victims are still deep in the throws of the devastation left by both storms. Then: the earthquake in Mexico. Death toll currently at 95.
Nature has been unrelenting, is the only thing I can think to say when my colleague K. tells me about family who managed to evacuate but now have no place to go. Another colleague pulls out her phone. Look at this—my father’s home, roof blown off. She shows us a picture of a clear blue sky, shining down through a ceiling-less room. Then our colleague N. walks in. The hurricanes?, she says. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law are stranded. They have to walk two miles to get cell service. My brother-in-law is walking six miles to the closest medical aid center to do what he can as a doctor.
There’s a pause, a reflective silence, and it strikes me how enormously lucky I am in this moment. At work. Home in tact. Safe. Alive.
Then N. adds: But you know, their neighbor is a farmer. And yesterday he killed one of his chickens so they’d all have something to eat. They’re sharing whatever they have. It’s amazing how people come together in times like this.
And it is. The solidarity that emerged in New York City post 9/11 was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Along with last week’s natural disasters have come inspiring relief efforts, both from those within the chaos and those coming in to help.
At our team meeting, N. announced a clothing drive for her family in St. Thomas. I already have boxes ready to go for bathing and beauty products and dried foods. Our friend is going to deliver them on his boat since he can’t get there any other way. I just want to give them some relief, some fresh clothes and a chance to bathe. Even if they wanted to they couldn’t buy anything – the stores are wiped.
Across the table, M. piped in: Tell me how much you need! My roommate has way too many clothes he needs to get rid of. I’ll bring them in.
I added: I’m writing an article on the relief efforts. I’ll share the links to donation sites.
As a company, we’ve reached out our nonprofit partner, HOPE, to donate children’s clothes to victims of both hurricanes and the earthquake.
In times—and on days—like this, I am inspired by the humanity people show one another. Especially those helping their neighbors as they also try to survive. It reminds me of how much is possible when we come together. When we value every human life as much as our own.
Here are eight ways you can join the relief efforts and support recovery. The following donation sites are top picks from charity navigator and/or direct donation links. See this New York Times article for more on how to be a wise-helper (and avoid scams).
Where To Donate
While supplies are great, money is often more effective for post-disaster relief. Supplies can require more time and money due to packaging, shipping and distribution. They may also not meet people’s most pressing needs. Check out Global Giving’s infographic on best ways to help.
- Global Giving connects directly with local nonprofits committed to short and long-term relief efforts. They vet the nonprofits they donate to and update you with reports along the way.
- GoFundMe allows you to give directly to on-the-ground efforts, families and charities. Find the cause that resonates with you on their Hurricane Irma page, their Hurricane Harvey page, or their Mexico earthquake page.
- Charity Navigator also vets nonprofits so you can feel confident about who you donate to. Visit their site to see their top recommendations for nonprofits to support.
- Direct Relief is ranked #1 on Charity Navigator’s 2017 list of top-rated charities. Emergency preparedness & response is one of their four major areas of focus, all of which center around health. You can track your donations of medical aid on a map they update daily.
Where To Volunteer
Nonprofits and state governments are asking people not to self-deploy. Resources are already scarce and unexpected volunteers can be a further strain. They may also be turned away by authorities. Instead, try volunteering with one of the following groups—it’s always good to have company, anyhow!
- Join Volunteer Florida to help out shelters and nonprofits responding to Hurricane Irma.
- The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) will connect volunteers to highest needs areas within current disaster zones. They ask for patience as they assess the damage and ensure they will need many hands to help over the coming months.
- All Hands Volunteers provides on-the-job training for people who want to join relief and rebuilding efforts. They have immediate response teams as well as long-term plans, promising to stay on the ground for years to get the work done.
- Convoy of Hope is accepting volunteers for Hurricane Harvey relief within 2 hours of the affected area. Help distribute emergency supplies and connect with impacted residents. They are building efforts for Hurricane Irma relief as well.
Wherever you are, thank you for reading this. Thank you for your care. And thank you for your contributions.