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Editorial: Think before giving cash to relief efforts

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Photographs and videos showing the disaster wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines are nearly indescribable.

Buildings are leveled, with only a few concrete structures still standing, according to The Associated Press. The hard-hit city of Tacloban looks like a garbage dump, it reported.

The storm packed 147-mph winds and whipped up 20-foot walls of seawater that tossed ships inland and swept many people out to sea.

Thousands of people in the Philippines died in the massive storm, and at least 9.7 million people in 41 provinces were affected by the typhoon.

“I don’t believe there is a single structure that is not destroyed or severely damaged in some way — every single building, every single house,” U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy said after taking a helicopter flight over Tacloban, the largest city in Leyte province.

Our hearts go out to the people of the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia where the storm struck, just as we ached for the residents of Moore, Okla., earlier this year and to those in Henryville and other Hoosier communities last year when tornadoes struck.

We will be moved to help those in the Philippines (it’s our nature), just as many of us donated and volunteered to help in Henryville and Holton following the March 2, 2012, storms.

Our assistance, however, should be done through organized charities focused on specific portions of rescue, cleanup and rehabilitation. Instead of loading a truck with shovels, buckets, boxes of used clothes and cases of bottled water to ship overseas, give money to organizations such as the International Red Cross, the United Nations and others that are on the scene helping victims sort out their lives.

In the immediate aftermath of the typhoon, the greatest need is for money to buy food and water and provide the makings of shelter. Donations made through international relief organizations can be pooled and put to best use. Supplies can be purchased in bulk and shipped in the most cost-effective way to ensure they reach the people most in need.

If your gift isn’t needed immediately, it will be banked and used when the next disaster hits.

Another way to help is to donate blood at an Indiana Blood Center, American Red Cross facility or at mobile donation drive. While the blood might not be needed in the Philippines, it will help restock depleted supplies or be used locally where there is an immediate need.

Disasters such as the typhoon in the Philippines or last year’s tornadoes in southern Indiana prompt us to reach out and help. We encourage that.

The recovery process, as we have seen in southern Indiana and even from our own recovery from flooding five years ago in Johnson County, will take months and years. There will be a continuing need for assistance for a significant time to come.

Your gifts are important. Just be careful how you donate.

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