When reports and images of devastating wildfires dominate the news, you may feel drawn to offer help to the homeless and bereaved. That would be a very generous response, and there are many ways of helping, but it’s advisable to check what’s needed first in your selected area. You’ll find guidelines for giving and volunteering on official websites connected with the rescue operation. But first, browse this list of potential ways of helping and consider which would suit you best.
By giving money
Rescue coordinators sometimes prefer financial donations to physical items, so they can use the money as they see fit. They may recommend particular charities as reliable and relevant ones. Check online or phone the disaster area’s official helpline for advice. If you give money, remember that every little bit helps, so don’t give more than you can comfortably afford.
By providing clothes or household items
People who have lost their homes will be short of everything from clothes and toys to computers and cookers. Rescue organizers may be calling for a particular category of clothes, like underwear or shoes, or specific household items, such as bedding, kitchenware or baby equipment. Take care not to give away anything that will be sorely missed, and if you live at a distance, consider delivery costs before going ahead.
By helping with the clean-up
If you live near the fire-ravaged area that concerns you, or can easily reach it, you may like to offer practical help. An extra pair of hands to sweep up ash and clear debris may be very welcome. If so, check if you need to provide your own brush or cleaning materials and whether you need to wear any protective clothing. Take personal food and drink supplies, and a torch if volunteering for night work.
By offering emotional support
Survivors of natural disasters are often traumatized and in need of a sympathetic ear. If you feel you could support victims as a listener and comforter, consult the organization in charge of the rescue mission and ask how to go about this. They may be able to direct you to a relevant team-member, or you may be left to help where and how you can, depending on the situation. Bear in mind that you’ll need to stay calm and strong to fulfill this role, however distressing the circumstances.
By providing transport
If you live near the disaster area and can provide transport, you could offer a free taxi or delivery service. You might be called on to collect and pass on food parcels, for instance, or to give lifts to people who have lost their vehicles.
By providing or distributing food
There may be a call for food products, perhaps with specific types highlighted, so check for any official guidelines. On the other hand, you may find that plenty of food has already been donated but there’s a shortage of helpers on the ground to distribute them.
You may have another service to offer, in which case, the rescue team will be glad to know about it. However you contribute, you will be sending a valuable message of care and empathy to all those affected by the fire.