Disaster Relief Donation

Disaster Happens, Now Who Do I Donate To?

Donate To Those Who Have Dirty Shoes

I grew up in Michigan, the land of tornadoes. When I was in the 6th grade, I rode my BMX bike home from school after a lengthy tornado drill. As my buddy and I were leaving the school parking lot, the tornado did a 180 degree turn and headed back towards us. The school parking lot was busier than Times Square on New Year’s Eve with scared parents picking up their children.

As the tornado approached the school, the wind picked up and sounded like a freight train. The wind gusts were so strong, my buddy and his road bike were slammed to the ground like someone slapping down a domino onto a concrete table. A car almost ran him over.

Meanwhile, on my BMX bike, the wind was pushing me so fast, I was passing cars in a 45mph zone. Sticks, stones, branches and fire logs were flying 10 feet in the air, some of them hitting the right side of my body, as the tornado flung them across the road.

It was all over in about two minutes, but I made it home in record time that day! That wasn’t my only experience with a tornado growing up in Michigan, but it was a memorable one!

Because of those experiences, I’ve always had empathy for those in disaster situations like Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma. Then in 2004, when the tsunami struck southern Asia my heart ached to help in disaster relief.

And a few short years later, in 2008, I went to Switzerland to train with world renowned NGO, MedAir International for international disaster relief work, also called humanitarian aid. They are known, world-wide, as a leader in international disaster relief services.

In 2010, after the earthquake struck the small island of Hispaniola, also known as Haiti, I served for 3 weeks, sleeping in a tent on the concrete ground. It was one of the most memorable 3 weeks of my life…for good and bad memories.

I worked along side some of the most selfless people in the world in those 3 weeks in Port-au-Prince. I also worked along side of some of the most selfish people in the world too.

I went back to Haiti 3 more times, post-quake, to help with the relief efforts and I learned a thing or two about who to help and who not to help.

Allow me to share with you some wisdom. I’d like to share five points of interest one should always look at when donating for disaster relief.

Thomas Road Baptist Church Pastor, Jonathan Falwell, took this photo while vacationing in St. Martin while Hurricane Irma destroyed the small island.
Thomas Road Baptist Church Pastor, Jonathan Falwell, took this photo while vacationing in St. Martin while Hurricane Irma destroyed the small island. Posted on Falwell’s Facebook Page on September 6th, 2017.

5. The Old Man

Almost always donate to the old man. There’s always a new kid on the block who wants your money when there’s a “hot new disaster” to gain from, but there’s always an old man on the block too. This organization has been there for a long time and this old man knows everyone, sees everything and can guide your donation to the right place, at the right time, for the right reasons. He might not look good, but don’t let his old age fool you, he’s knows what he’s doing. (Example: The Salvation Army)

4.  The Little Guy

When there’s a boxing match, everyone roots for the little guy, but when there’s a disaster, a lot of people overlook him. Little guys can quickly and efficiently go where the big guys can’t. They’re not paralyzed by committees or boards that have to have their hands in every decision. They can get to know survivors on a more personal level and see the job through from start to finish with the same personnel on the job site. Don’t forget to trust the little guys. Churches and Christian ministries have plenty of outreaches specifically for disaster relief. Consider donating to one of the little guys. (Bias Alert! Example: Servants Aid)

3. Bad Personality

When I was in Haiti, just 6 weeks after the earthquake in 2010, I stayed at an orphanage run by a dude name Wesley. His dad started the orphanage 40 years earlier, but Wesley was running it now due to his dad’s poor health. Wesley grew up in Haiti, attended school in Miami and served honorably in the United States Army. Therefore he had the hard personality of a Haitian, a Miami immigrant and a child of Uncle Sam’s Army. And when the earthquake hit Port-au-Prince and 80 orphans, 27 village churches (i.e. hundreds of Haitian farmers) needed a hero guess who had the right mentality and know-how to get things done in a war-like atmosphere? You got it, Wesley. But guess who hated working with Wesley? Almost every American I met in Haiti for the past 7 years. People still talk bad about him to this very day. But you know what I saw that no one else did? A God-appointed hero. I watched him, more than once, negotiate life saving deals on the streets of Haiti with killers so that orphans, American volunteers, Haitian farmers and many others would have food, water and shelter during one of the most strenuous moments in Haiti’s history. My friend Frank and I even had the joy of escorting Wesley and $8,000 worth of rice through one of the most dangerous areas of the world when Wesley dryly stated,

If you guys don’t die in the next 20 minutes, you’ll probably be okay the rest of the time here in Haiti.

There is no doubt in my mind God put Wesley in charge of so many people lives even though many Americans down there failed to see the miraculous work God anointed Wesley to do. Don’t always judge a person’s personality in disaster situations. They might have that position for a reason.

And you wanna know the kicker? Wesley did this every week, for almost 3 months straight for thousands of people. (Example: My buddy Wesley)

2. Baggy Eyes

They might not be the prettiest looking disaster relief worker, but they are the hardest working aid worker you’ve ever seen. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. No matching t-shirts? No logo? No catchy catch phrase on their ball cap? Stay with me on this one. Let’s take a look at Hurricane Harvey for a moment. Who are the heroes in Texas? In the South we call them “the good ol’ boys” or redneck if you’re from the North. They wear camouflage, hunting caps and might even carry a gun, but they work so hard they never get any sleep. That’s when those eyes start packing bags! You wanna donate some money to help with disaster relief? Then find the guys with baggy eyes, give them some gas, hotel, food and equipment money. Most people in a disaster zone are using their own materials and resources to help their neighbor. Help a brother out because one day, he might be helping you out. (Example: Bubba & his buddies)

Saint Martin needs your prayers. This was shelter we were in until 5am when roof blew off. We were moved minutes before. #HurricaneIrma
“Saint Martin needs your prayers. This was shelter we were in until 5am when roof blew off. We were moved minutes before.”-Jonathan Falwell via Facebook #HurricaneIrma

1. Dirty Shoes

And the number one person you should help out in a disaster zone is the family with dirty shoes. They lost everything or close to it. A lot of times the only thing they’ve got is what they’re wearing and I can almost guarantee you they have on dirty shoes. Don’t be afraid to give them some financial love. You don’t have to go through an organization to do it (but it is safer that way). Do you have friends in Texas or Florida? Ask them if they have any friends in need. Who better to help out than a friend of a friend? I’m always researching Facebook for my friends in the areas effected by disasters and checking to see who needs help, then I use my network to try to assist them. I encourage you to do the same. (Example: The family that lost it all.)

Here’s the cold hard truth: material items help, but cash is king. Let the boots on the ground decide how to spend the money.

Those with Dirty Shoes know the market and who needs the what, when where and how.

Let go of your ego, and let the old timer, who might be small in statue, with a bad personality, baggy eyes and dirty shoes take care of business!



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