Hurricane Irma barreled through the Caribbean over the weekend, killing at least 28 people and destroying the majority of homes and businesses on islands like Barbuda. Now downgraded to a tropical storm, Irma is working its way through Florida and Georgia, displacing thousands of residents and leaving millions without power.
Those of us watching the news from afar often want to help, but knowing exactly which kind of aid to send can be tricky. The best thing you can send is money, according Lt. Col. Ron Busroe, national community relations and development secretary for the Salvation Army.
“The best way to help after a disaster is to make a financial donation,” he said in a statement to HuffPost. “Monetary contributions also support local economies and ensure that businesses can operate when relief supplies diminish.”
If you’d rather send goods, it’s wise to go through a trusted organization instead of mailing them on your own.
“Think twice before you send any blankets, clothes or toys into a disaster area,” the New York Times advises. “Transporting, storing and sorting donated goods can divert resources away from more pressing work.”
If you’d like to donate to Irma victims ― monetarily or otherwise ― here are some excellent ways to do so.
If you’re donating to a big-name organization, choose wisely.
There are options beyond the American Red Cross, which has been criticized for a lack of transparency in how it distributes relief funds. As an alternative, give to a more targeted organization, like Convoy of Hope. A donation to their Hurricane Irma Response fund comes with email updates on how your money is being used.
Or, donate to a specific project on a crowdfunding site.
Platforms like GoFundMe and YouCaring have designated disaster relief pages where you can browse projects specifically related to Irma. For example, your donation could go directly to employees at a yacht club on Virgin Gorda or a family rebuilding their home on St. John.
Donate to a food or diaper bank.
Check out Feeding Florida or Feeding South Florida to locate a food bank to send money to. Also consider donating to the National Diaper Network or one of its many affiliates located in Florida.
Buy merchandise to support devastated areas.
St. Martin’s famous Princess Juliana Airport was destroyed by Hurricane Irma. If you’d like to help support the island, Airline Geeks is selling T-shirts and donating profits to the Netherlands’ Red Cross (Rode Kruis).
Send a ShelterBox of repair tools.
This U.K.-based organization is sending kits of repair tools to families in the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands so they can rebuild shelters. A donation of about $13 could fund a box with much-needed mosquito nets, while about $46 will fill a box with tools like shovels, pliers and saws.