In the aftermath of a disaster, Americans have always pulled together with compassion and generosity to help those in need. For Hurricane Maria, there are three ways that you can leverage the expertise and experience of non-profit, faith- and community-based organizations and private sector partners to most effectively and efficiently help provide support for survivors in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and ensure that an individual contribution — whether it be a financial donation or volunteering — is carried out responsibly, the Department of Homeland Security advises.
The fastest way to help — cash is best!
The most effective means to support recovery of communities affected by Hurricane Maria is to donate money to trusted voluntary-, faith- and community-based charitable organizations. This gives these organizations the ability to purchase what survivors need right now. In addition, when these organizations purchase goods or services locally, they pump money back into the local and regional economy, helping businesses recover faster.
Donate and Volunteer Responsibly
Many churches, organizations and individuals across the country are eager to assist, but DHS urges all parties to follow its guidance in the paragraphs below or the best of intentions could turn into a burden for devastated communities.
The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) list trusted organizations receiving donations, many of which are already coordinating relief and response efforts in the Caribbean. To make a cash donation directly to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, visit www.unitedforpuertorico.com. You may also make financial donations to a National VOAD member organization to help voluntary or charitable organizations continue to provide services to Hurricane Maria survivors.
The DHS does not recommend donating unsolicited goods, such as clothing, miscellaneous household items, and mixed or perishable foodstuffs, which require volunteer agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing services to sort, package, transport, warehouse, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.
To responsibly donate goods, the NVOAD website provides information about non-profit organizations accepting or registering individual and corporate in-kind donations here.
Anyone seeking an opportunity to get involved in response and recovery operations underway is encouraged to volunteer with local and nationally known organizations. A list of volunteer websites is available at www.nvoad.org.
The governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands ask that volunteers not self-deploy because unexpected arrivals in affected communities create an additional burden for first-responders. Also public services and infrastructure for hospitals and medical care, clean water and sanitation, the electrical power grid and cell phone service have been severely damaged. Safe lodging is almost nonexistent due to the storm damage and gasoline supplies are extremely tight, according to media reports.
Volunteer registration for Hurricane Maria can be conducted here for Puerto Rico and here for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
To register as an affiliated volunteer with a voluntary or charitable organization, visit the National VOAD for a list of partners active in disaster. Alternatively, you may register to volunteer here for partner organizations to reach out to you.
Recovery activities associated with Hurricane Maria will require volunteer engagement for many months and years to come, and the help of many will be required, DHS says.
Avoid charities scams and assist with trusted organizations in the recovery effort; DHS offers smart advice for the fastest way to help.