Responsible giving in disasters


A year ago, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, particularly Tacloban, where over 6000 lives were lost and thousands lost their homes and employment. FBB launched a drive that raised $63,970 for our beneficiaries working in the area.

Over the past several days, Typhoon Hagupit (locally called Ruby) has been slowly moving over the Philippines. Humanist Disaster Recovery staff has been closely monitoring the situation and determined that we will not be conducting a Humanist Disaster Recovery Drive. We thought this would be a good opportunity to explain how we choose which disasters qualify for a Humanist Disaster Recovery Drive.

The most important question we ask when determining whether to hold a Humanist Disaster Recovery Drive is what are the actual needs of survivors and the organizations that support them? Can we, through our community’s financial resources, address those unmet needs? If the needs don't require money or there are other people or organizations already in a position to address those needs, then it is our responsibility to take a step back. People and resources flood into an impacted community right after a disaster. As much as this influx of resources can help, it can also cause additional problems. The local government and groups on the ground have to create infrastructure to support the volunteers and organizations that come into an area, taking their time and resources away from meeting the needs of survivors. Finding a balance between outside support that is useful and outside support that only hinders is an art.

If nothing else, we never want to be a hindrance to a community. This is also the reasoning behind our commitment to prioritize local organizations and organizations that will stay in the community to meet ongoing needs throughout the recovery process when selecting beneficiaries for our Humanist Disaster Recovery Drives. It is only when the government and aid groups that are already there are overwhelmed that we mount a drive

As of now, fortunately, it appears that the Philippine government, local aid agencies, and the international groups that were already on the ground doing recovery work from Haiyan are not overwhelmed. This storm was not the same strength as Haiyan, nor did it cause the same amount of damage. The lessons learned after Haiyan appear to have been implemented. For example, unlike with Haiyan, over a million people were evacuated from vulnerable coastal areas. These and other actions taken undoubtedly saved hundreds if not thousands of lives.

In the coming days and weeks, there will be scary and heart-wrenching photos coming out of the Philippines. You will see homes destroyed and livelihoods devastated. It can be hard to dissociate from those images and look at the situation critically. What are the actual needs of the survivors right now and are we the best organization to address those needs? Sometimes we will be, but sometimes we won’t be.

If you do wish to donate money in the wake of Typhoon Hagupit, we recommend Citizens Disaster Response Center, a previous FBB beneficiary that is local to the Philippines.