The best way to help after disaster


On Sunday, 1/22/17 a large wedge-shaped tornado ripped through the counties of Albany and Dougherty in the state of Georgia. Multiple lives have been lost, houses were leveled and mobile homes were shredded. Many families have been left without homes, food, warmth or hope. With your help, CSI wants to offer hope in the name of Jesus to those who are just starting to pick up the pieces. We are taking financial contributions to help purchase gift cards for families who are staying in local churches and shelters. This will allow them to purchase the items that they need. It might seem like a small thing but when you are staying in a shelter and need to brush your teeth or wash your hair it is comforting to be able to use the same brands that you use at home. It helps to create a small sense of normalcy in the midst of chaos. DONATE NOW

georgia-tornado-destruction-3-kelly-simones-post-mobile-uploads Mobile upload from Kelly Simone’

Anytime a disaster like this happens people are moved to action. When natural disasters ravage the world people get compassionate and generous and that’s a good thing. However, in many instances those good intentions become anything but. Disaster relief organizations like CSI are trying to figure out better ways to channel the good intentions of those who want to give. While it  might be hard to comprehend, many times the scores of unsolicited and unneeded items received are what relief organizations refer to as the disaster after the disaster.

It’s hard to tell anyone that what they are wanting to give to help someone might not be the best thing. But in many instances even our best intentions just aren’t useful and actually cause more work and expense for relief agencies. In Newtown, Connecticut after the horrific school shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 adults the town was inundated with donations of thousands and thousands of teddy bears. The thought process behind these donations was that the surviving children needed comfort and teddy bears bring comfort. This is true and a very nice gesture.  However, a 20,000 square foot warehouse had to be rented just to store all of the unneeded teddy bears.


This photo shows the tens of thousands of stuffed animals, donated to the children of Newtown, Conn., following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, fill a warehouse. Most donations were sent away. CHRIS KELSEY

When hurricane Andrew in 1992  ravaged the South Florida coast so many unsolicited clothing donations showed up in trucks that drivers couldn’t find organizations that would take them so they just unloaded them on the sides of the road. Rain and heat don’t mix well with used clothing. In 2004, following the Indian Ocean tsunami, a beach in Indonesia was piled with used clothing that had been donated.There just wasn’t time for  volunteers and workers to sort through and wash old clothes. These contributions just sat and rotted.”This very quickly went toxic and had to be destroyed,” said Juanita Rilling, director of the Center for International Disaster Information in Washington, D.C.  So what happened? Local officials poured gasoline on it and set it on fire. And then it was out to sea.


 Donated clothing discarded on the beach at Banda Aceh, Indonesia. USAID/OFDA


Even CSI has been faced with this situation before. Well meaning people have donated unsolicited items when they hear we are responding to a particular disaster. We have received expired medication, old clothing and household items that were unfortunately not needed. When organizations receive this type of stuff it takes man power to sort through everything and then in many instances we have to find somehow to safely dispose of the items. What many people don’t realize is that any food and medication donation has to be thouroughly inspected and properly labeled. Old clothing sometimes requires cleaning. This takes time away from volunteers doing critical tasks. This is what one volunteer worker describes as “disorganized generosity”. Really the only time to donate these types of things is when an organization specifically asks for them and has a specific location for the items to be received and the manpower to handle to unloading and sorting.

CSI receives frequent calls from people who want to ship items to disaster areas whether that be overseas or within the USA. However, this isn’t the most cost-effective way to get needed supplies to those who need them. Many times, especially when shipping overseas, the cost of shipping and customs is more than purchasing new items locally. Many times even in disaster situations the needed supplies can be purchased in a nearby country or state. This saves shipping and customs costs and helps to revive the local economy. CSI is uniquely positioned with contacts all over the world who are able to help us with these types of local purchases making the shipping of items in most instances unnecessary.

One of our main goals is that everything we provide be a help and not a hindrance. We also want to treat people with the dignity and respect that they deserve. While it is true that people who have lost everything have a need for everything to be replaced, we do not want to provide them with just anything. We want everything that they receive to be useful to them in their time of need.

CSI knows that you have a desire to help those in need and we never want to discourage anyone from giving. We know that monetary donations can feel impersonal to many but in reality monetary donations after a disaster are one of the most compassionate things you can do. DONATE NOW

Please be sure to sign up for our mailing list , visit our website and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where we will post any specific items that we are collecting in the aftermath of a disaster.

We truly are thankful for each one of you who supports the work of CSI. It’s because of you that people in need receive the help they need.


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