Helping After a Disaster: Why It’s Important to Be Cautionary

Carl Turnley Haiti

 

In the wake of a disaster, human beings are unique in their desire to help.

Almost as one, we stand up and ask how we can help. Can we send food? Can we send supplies? Can we offer our homes, our money or even words of encouragement to help in times of absolute need?

When Hurricane Matthew swept through the Caribbean it left behind it a path of destruction, death and despair while making its way to the southeast United States. Lacking a solidified government and the advanced infrastructure that nations like the United States or the Bahamas can tout, Haiti was devastated by the severe weather. The death count continues to climb, currently over 1,000 according to the Huffington Post.

Amidst news of death, destroyed infrastructure, displaced people and decimated morale across the small island nation, humans around the world rose to help. In almost a mirror image of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the American Red Cross allowed people to donate money quickly and efficiently to Haiti’s relief efforts simply by texting a number.

But suddenly, things changed abruptly–reports came in that some people were warning Americans not to donate to the American Red Cross for Haiti relief. In fact, it was the Haitians, in large part, who were warning against it. They claimed that the donations in past disaster relief efforts had been largely squandered.

At this point in time, it may be in the best interest to listen to them. Understanding where your donations are going is the single most important part of making a charitable donation. Having the knowledge that your funds are being lost simply lining the pockets of the employees at a nonprofit, being poorly managed, or otherwise being called into question should put a halt in your donations quickly.

You know by now that you should do your due diligence when deciding on a charity to which you’ll donate some money. But sometimes it takes more than a simple Google search to make a conclusion. CharityWatch gives the ARC an A- rating–proof that they can (and often do!) coordinate large scale efforts and help those in need. But foreign relief efforts are often best handed by foreign NGOs, or ones that work closely with foreign governments.

A natural disaster, especially one that has claimed so many lives and devastated entire countries is worthy of an extra charitable look. These people are people–human beings–who need help that they simply cannot provide for themselves. However, times of dire need are not the times to begin throwing caution to the wind. Make sure that the nonprofits that you’re donating to are both legitimate and appropriately use their funds in the most efficient way possible.

To help Haiti with Hurricane Matthew relief, consider donating directly to Doctors Without Borders or Help for Haiti, two relief efforts that are primed to make a difference.

Charities That Fly Under the Radar

Certain charities exist in the U.S. that are nearly universally known. People have heard of these charities, know what they do, and have possibly donated to them in the past. These charities might include Make-A-Wish, Salvation Army, The American Cancer Society, and Goodwill. While these charities do a lot of good and support great causes, there are also many lesser-known charities that also provide awesome services. Here’s a list of smaller charities that have received stellar ratings on Charity Navigator, which evaluates how well a charity uses their finances and how accountable they are with reporting information.

 

India Development and Relief Fund

This charity is based in Maryland and focuses on providing “support for programs that improve education, healthcare, women empowerment, governance, and eco-friendly livelihoods at grassroots level all across India, and Nepal.” The organization currently focuses on assisting those living in Nepal who were affected by the devastating earthquakes that recently occurred.

 

Pediatric Cancer Foundation

This foundation runs the Sunshine Project, which allows researchers and doctors to work together with the singular goal of treating childhood cancer, a fairly novel approach. They have been able to develop less toxic drugs that may help children whose treatment wasn’t previously effective. The foundation also funds a lot of research around pediatric cancer.

 

Puppies Behind Bars

The purpose of this charity is to train wounded veteran and law enforcement service dogs. They accomplish this goal by giving puppies to inmates, who raise and train the dogs from the age of 8 to 24 weeks. The dogs are then placed with wounded veterans at no cost. Around 800 puppies have been trained since 1997.

 

Alpha House of Tampa

Alpha House assists homeless mothers or pregnant women who are in crisis and do not have much support to care for themselves and their children. The charity offers health care, housing, parenting classes, education, and assistance in developing skills that allow these mothers to be self-sufficient.

 

Better Basics

Better Basics strives to encourage literacy with at-risk children in the Birmingham, Alabama area. They run intervention and education programs, in addition to handing out free books to local children. Last year, over 80,000 books were donated to schoolchildren. Even though literacy rates in the United States are fairly high, there are still thousands of children who struggle to read.

 

Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide

The Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) seeks to assist attorneys and researchers on an international level. ELAW provides these people with the resources necessary to protect the environment through passing legislation or upholding that which is already in place. More than 300 scientists and lawyers spread throughout 70 countries are a part of ELAW.

The Unappreciated Philanthropy of Greek Life

 

Carl Turnley Philanthropy

The word “philanthropy” is, according to Google, derived from the Greek word “philanthropos,” meaning “man-loving.” Man-loving, in this sense, is the focus on feeling compassion and high regard of your fellow man; all of mankind as a whole is deserving of respect, regard, and, of course, assistance when needed. It only makes sense, then, that the connection between a word whose origins can be traced to Greece and college Greek life share such a close connection.

For many people, though, love of your fellow man isn’t what the first thing that comes to mind when they think about college fraternities.

 

So what is the first thing that comes to mind when I say the phrase “Greek life?” What about “fraternities” or “sororities?” If you pictured wild parties, hazing rituals, red solo cups and togas made of bedsheets, chances are your view of fraternities and sororities are more governed by what you’ve seen in movies and heard about during your time in college. If, on the other hand, you pictured well-organized, philanthropic events, year-round fundraising and a strong sense of compassion and the willingness to help others, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

 

Depending on where you went to college and your level of involvement in Greek life, you may have a very different opinion of the entire scenario.  While many people who never pledged a fraternity or sorority who attended a larger schools like Arizona State or Penn State may know the groups best for their weekend antics, the foundation of a fraternity isn’t in the parties they throw, it’s in the philanthropy they engage in.

 

Every fraternity and sorority on just about every campus across America carefully and meticulously plans out a series of fundraising events that benefit a charity–whether it’s local or national. These charities and philanthropic causes become the backbone for the fraternity or sorority’s event planning and fundraising each year. In 2011 at the University of Michigan, the University’s Greek life helped to raise over $75,000 to donate to charities–in a single week.  

 

Perhaps the biggest and best in Greek life fundraising is the annual event THON, which started at Penn State University in 1973 as a dance marathon to benefit charity. Since its onset, THON has partnered with the Four Diamonds Fund, which supports pediatric cancer research. The partnership, along with increased coverage of the event and a rate of participation from students both in and outside of Greek life has increased its charitable reach to epic proportions, recently raising over $14 million dollars in 2014 and over $9 million in 2016.

 

It’s time to break the mold of thinking when it comes to Greek life and the “party” culture that surrounds it. Often, Greek like winds up making strong changes of lives in people all over the glove.