Taking a Trip to Volunteer during a Disaster
If you're lucky enough to work in a field that you truly love, the rhythm of your life is a cadence that lets you dance every day and truly helps you maintain a balanced perspective. If not, you may find yourself listening to a metronome that seems to pester you forward, unyielding in its tone.
My suggestion for every traveler is simply this: "The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others." - Gandhi
When a disaster hits an area of your world or the world in general, it can be difficult to take in the images that you see rolling across CNN. You hear the commercials to donate $10 via your cell phone or to give blood - but is there more that you can do? Consider making a trip to a disaster area to assist with the recovery efforts, but don't go into it blindly. Here are 5 things that you need to consider.
1. Look for an organization in your town that's putting together a group to volunteer. If you're affiliated with an organization, your odds of getting into areas where they truly need volunteers skyrocket. In some disaster areas, you will need credentials to get into certain areas.
2. If you're going to go it alone, check out VolunteerMatch and contact an organization that's coordinating efforts on the ground. Other organizations to consider are the Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
3. Consider that you may have to stay 100 - 200 miles away from the disaster area. If tornadoes or floods hit an area, the emergency responders are most likely in every available hotel room and spare patch of floor. You may have to drive several hours each day just to get to your volunteer zone.
4. Local resources are limited. You need to be as self-sufficient as possible in a disaster zone. You have to travel to a disaster prepared for a disaster. Check out FEMA.gov's website for information on disaster kits. Also remember that you will be of little use to anyone if you let yourself get depleted. Self-sufficiency also involves self-care. Don't burn yourself out.
5. Remember - if their cell service doesn't work, neither will yours unless you have a satellite phone. Establish a text message routine with someone in your life so someone is keeping tabs on your location.
Volunteering in a disaster situation can be very fulfilling, but it's also a huge challenge. If you decide to go, go prepared.
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