On December 7th1988 I was listening to the news and heard with shock reports of an earthquake in Armenia that had devastated the country and killed 60,000. I felt horrified at the immensity of the destruction and was overwhelmed by it. We were near Christmas and looking forward to a time of celebration and here were people who had lost everything.
What could one person do in the face of so much human pain? I felt powerless at first but then resolved to do what I could. I was 18 and living in a small village outside Cambridge. I grabbed an empty cocoa tin and started knocking on doors asking for donations. At first it was neighbours and people who knew me. Then the challenge came to start going to people I did not know. I simply explained that I had heard the news and felt so sad for the people there that I wanted to collect money for them. Some people questioned my credentials for doing so – an empty cocoa tim not seeming to be that official! I simply gave them all that I could: my word and my promise that the money was going to be donated to the relief effort.
Soon my tin was full of money and I had to return home. I went out again and by the end of the day had collected over £400.
This was a real lesson for me. In the face of overwhelming disaster it would have been so easy to give up and feel that there was nothing I could do, or make a small donation feeling it was of little worth. But together we have the power to make a difference. When the news of the donation was reported the whole village felt it had played a part in the relief effort and I saw that if one person chooses to act for the good of the community it can have a powerful effect. One thing that was repeated at many doors was people saying they had thought to donate but were not sure how to so they were grateful someone was collecting. In our busy lives donating to a cause can be just one more thing to do that we don’t get round to.
Once again we are nearing Christmas and what is reported as the strongest tornado ever recorded has hit the Philippines and is on its way to Vietnam. The potential loss of life is already estimated at 10,000. A 300 mile wide tornado with winds of up to 235 mph has ripped the infrastructure apart, destroyed homes and separated mothers and children. Seeing the pictures and reading the reports I feel like crying at the immensity of suffering that is there to view. But this is not a disaster movie. These are real lives and it will take time to repair. Some of the people now displaced had already been evacuated from their homes after a severe earthquake last month, so they have lost out twice.
Once again I reach out to the community I can connect to. This time I do not have a cocoa tin but links to well established disaster relief providers! Clearly you may not be in a position to donate anything and if that is the case please feel the power of sending your well wishing to the people concerned through the Loving Kindness practice. But if you are able to donate do so knowing you are part of a community and that together we can make a difference.
World Food Programme
WFP has allocated an immediate $2 million for Haiyan relief, with a greater appeal pending as needs become apparent. The UN organization is sending 40 metric tons of fortified biscuits in the immediate aftermath, as well as working with the government to restore emergency telecommunications in the area. Americans can text the word AID to 27722 to donate $10 or give online. Learn more here.
Emergency responders and volunteers throughout the Philippines are providing meals and relief items. Already, thousands of hot meals have been provided to survivors. Red Cross volunteers and staff also helped deliver preliminary emergency warnings and safety tips. Give by donating online or mailing a check to your local American Red Cross chapter. Learn more here.
The relief organization is sending medical aid for 20,000 survivors, including antibiotics, wound care supplies and pain relievers. AmeriCares is also giving funds to local organizations to purchase supplies. Learn more here.
The organization is providing food, water and hygiene kits at the evacuation centers. World Vision was also still actively responding to last month’s earthquake in Bohol, which luckily was not struck by the eye of the storm. Learn more here.
100 percent of all disaster donations will be used for relief efforts and “to immediately meet the specific needs of disaster survivors.” Text TYPHOON to 80888 to Donate $10 or give online. Learn more here.