In response to the terrible earthquake in Haiti, both Outreach International (click here for their appeal) and the church (click here for their appeal) are calling on church members to give generously to those in need.
In times like this there is often a rush of people wanting to jet to the disaster zone and volunteer, or collect clothing, medicines and food to send to the people suffering. This altruistic impulse is praiseworthy and displays the great generosity and charity human beings show in times of trouble. However, not every well-meaning response to a disaster is a good one. In this briefing paper I wrote in light of the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, I explain how, when responding to a humanitarian disaster, potential donors should keep in mind the following key principles to guide their gift:
1. When making a donation, cash is best (see this helpful information sheet from InterAction). Cash can be moved around the world far more quickly and cheaply than medicines, clothing, food or other commodities, and enables agencies to respond flexibly to the situation.
2. If you want to volunteer, do so in your area of expertise (Those considering volunteering, might want also to read this article I wrote about the response to the Tsunami, the same principles apply).
3. Coordinate your response with other agencies and donors — don’t “go it alone.”
4. Make a long-term commitment to the region