The United States is still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and now Hurricane Irma is on a pathway of destruction, already claiming victims and destroying homes and other structures. According to UNICEF, "Hurricane Irma is one of the most powerful storms ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean."
With so much damage and destruction in the forecast (which only adds to the damage in Texas), people are searching for ways to help — whatever your situation, you can help in one of these ways:
Many organizations that work to provide disaster relief take monetary donations. Catholic Charities USA, Salvation Army and the American Red Cross are some organizations who work on-site to help in affected Hurricane Irma areas. And according to PBS NewsHour, they need prayers andfinancial donations.
Humanitarian Services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operates LDS Charities, where money donated to the Humanitarian Aid Fund to "provide emergency response and disaster relief" by donating water, food, and other immediate and long-term needs. Additionally, the site states, "100% of every dollar donated is used to help those in need without regard to race, religion, or ethnic origin." LDS Charities invites on-site and other volunteer opportunities, including helping in Hurricane Harvey disaster recovery.
UNICEF takes donations to help with getting medicines, food and water to affected areas.
GoFundMe has consolidated all Hurricane Irma fundraising campaigns here.
Charity Navigator displays a list of charities and the breakdown of where contributions come which can help you decide where to contribute.
Additionally, the American Red Cross offers volunteer training for people willing to assist in relief efforts in person.
National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster allows you to sign up to help in relief efforts, but asks that you wait to be called first and not self-deploy and increase the burden.
Children are often also displaced or become victims themselves in a natural disaster. Save the Children has organized a children's relief fund where donations "help us keep vulnerable children safe and provide desperately needed relief to families who need it most." According to PBS NewsHour, this organization has helped create "Child Friendly Spaces" in emergency shelters where children are able to be kids in the midst of disaster. They can read, play and be cared for while the adults deal with the stress and aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
People need places to go and hotels fill up quickly when evacuations are ordered. Some people have family they can stay with, while others have nowhere to turn. Airbnb is encouraging property owners to open their homes or rentals to evacuees free of charge.
While help is necessary and needed, sometimes well-meaning volunteers and donators give things that cause more problems:
This can complicate matters further, so it's best to go under the direction of organizations trained for these situations. FEMA states, "To ensure volunteer safety, as well as the safety of disaster survivors, volunteers should only go into affected areas with a specific volunteer assignment, proper safety gear, and valid identification." They suggest registering with a volunteer or charitable organization and wait for instruction.
"Please do not donate unsolicited goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, medicine, or perishable foodstuffs at this time. While donators have loving intentions in providing these articles, when used personal items are donated, the helping agencies must redirect their staff away from providing direct services to survivors in order to sort, package, transport, warehouse, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors," states the FEMA website.
If you are in Hurricane Irma's path, please follow evacuation orders or do what you can ensure your safety. As much as possible, be prepared with water, food, and medications you and your family needs. If you can, open your home to those in need. And please, stay safe.