While tracking the path of Super Typhoon Haiyan online as it moved across the Philippines, I realized that it was passing over the island of Cebu around that time.  My family and I lived in Cebu City for 10 months while I did research as a Fulbright Scholar a number of years ago.  Several of my Cornell University graduate students also did field research in this region so the places I saw on the map, were familiar.

This evening, a blog on the Christianity Today web site entitled, “How churches can help without hurting after Super Typhoon Haiyan but don’t become an SUV (Spontaneous Uninvited Volunteer)” caught my eye.  Having worked in disaster relief, during (and following) wars and famines in Africa, I want to echo the author’s main point.  Even though we don’t yet know the extent of the damage, right now, the relief agencies at work in the region need money, not volunteers.

Let me cut to the chase.  If you want to help, go to the web site of an established international relief organization and make an online gift—now.  Having served with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), seen its effective work around the world and appreciating its good stewardship, that’s where I sent our gift.  MCC has worked in the Philippines for decades so has a network of local partners.  Those partners will be deploying these resources to meet the shifting needs on the ground.  There are also many other fine relief organizations with experience and relationships in the Philippines and Vietnam.

If you are unsure where you want to channel your gifts, check out InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.-based international, nongovernmental relief and development organizations.  Its more than 180 member organizations (faith-based and secular, large and small) work in essentially every developing country.  Check out the directory for more details:

What these organizations need from us right now is our money, not our presence and not the goods we may be tempted to send.  Americans are enormously generous people but it’s important to channel our help in appropriate ways.

Established international relief organizations have people on the ground—people with the ability (and expertise) to ascertain the most significant (and shifting) needs.  They have relationships in the affected communities—with local groups, government agencies and other international organizations.  They will mobilize their networks to provide potable water, shelter, blankets, food and other emergency supplies that are probably available somewhere in the region.  The most urgent need right now will be for money to bring these materials to the places where they can make the biggest difference.

There will be a time when these organizations may be asking for volunteers to help with local restoration efforts but right now, they need our money.



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