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After the Reporters Leave May be The Best Time to Help

I recently returned from an emergency deployment to Puerto Rico. The strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in 85 years had ravaged the island a little over 2 months before. I was there to continue the feeding and resource distribution program that The Salvation Army as well as other groups had begun immediately following the storm.

After stepping off the plane, I was shocked by what I saw. Many organizations were pulling up stakes and were ramping down their work as they planned for their trips home. After disasters strike, when heart-wrenching images fill news-feeds, people often wonder what they can do to help and dig deep into their wallets. [1] When the pictures disappear, they money often dries up, and it had for many of the groups. A number of variables could be blamed for this, but one of the top reasons was donor fatigue. Two very large storms had hit mainland USA in the days before Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. Hurricane Harvey had decimated coastal Texas, and Ira had hit Florida hard. Those who would generally give had given, sometimes multiple times in the proceeding weeks. When the call for help went out for Puerto Rico, people were just tired of giving.

While the money needed during the initial stages of a disaster is vital, arguably, an even more critical need is money during the recovery stage. People might be tired of donating, but even as the emergency response stage ends, the issues for Puerto Rico are not solved. A recent report from the UN illustrates that disaster survivors continue to suffer for years afterward. Seven years since the massive earthquake in Haiti, there are still over 2.5 million people in need of aid. [2] While the numbers vary some, 30-40% of Puerto Rico is without power and its resumption is not on the horizon for many in the next six months to a year. In addition, apart from bottled or trucked in water, much of the population is still waiting on clean potable water.

As the news no longer focuses on Puerto Rico, and the reporters stop talking about the storm damage caused by Hurricane Maria, the people of Puerto Rico still need help. The next time something happens and you want to help, hold on to that check for a few months and send it then. It might not be as exciting, but I promise that there will still be organizations on the ground serving, who could definitely use it.



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