Lately the world has been fixated on all of the destruction and devastation that has taken over Japan, as a result of the earthquake in the Pacific and subsequent tsunami that washed away cities on the western coast of Japan.
There were warnings. There were emergency evacuations. There were preparedness plans put into action by almost all of the Pacific countries. But even the most intuitive plans were no match for Mother Nature. The tsunami swept away entire communities, damaging not just the homes, but also families -- many of which suffered unimaginable losses. And if that wasn't enough, Japan was also left to face the meltdowns at nuclear plants, threatening to poison what was left of the surrounding cities. But one thing this disaster couldn't take from Japan: their hope.
Now the Japanese are left to clean up. Restore their cities. Band together for the sake of their homes, their livelihoods, their families. They'll be reconstructing their cities from the ground up, trying to grasp onto the little bits of hope that are left. It's heartbreaking. It's scary. It's something that has been happening a lot lately in different parts of the world. Let's not forget the destruction left behind by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004, which was "estimated to have released the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)." Then there was the earthquake that uprooted the capital of Haiti and the surrounding villages – a place that was already struggling to thrive. Reconstruction efforts are moving slowly, and there is still a significant need for help. Then there are man-made disasters like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which impacted not only the environment and wildlife, but also the fishing industry and tourism all along the coastline – an economic disaster on its own.
All of these disasters really make people wonder: should we be taking a hint? Is this the beginning of the end? I've seen a number of different comments on Facebook about how this is "Mother Nature's way of telling us we're hurting our environment and our future." Regardless of whether I agree or disagree, one thing is for sure: people all over the world want to help. After every natural disaster I see so many people joining Facebook groups that "support the victims of the hurricane" or any number of different solidarity groups for the victims of disasters. While joining a virtual group isn't a bad thing by any means, it also isn't helping anyone. It might be the easiest thing for a person to do – click "Like" on Facebook instead of pledging money to charities or sending supplies to the Red Cross. And I don't exclude myself from doing that either. I've tried to do small things, like buying Dawn dish soap, which resulted in more Dawn products being donated to the oil spill wildlife clean-up efforts. And it's not always about the money. But when it comes to disaster relief and support, actions speak much louder than words. In looking at the bigger picture, if everyone were to do a few small things like buying a specific product from a company that supports a good cause, it would add up to something so much more significant than simply interacting with Facebook groups (and let's face it – how many truly intelligent conversations are actually conducted on Facebook group/fan pages?). So many people want to help, but they just need the information, and a little motivation. A virtual push in the right direction.
That being said, I've done a little research on disaster relief efforts and different organizations that are in place to provide support to people suffering all over the world. This includes the events in Japan, Haiti, the Gulf of Mexico and even issues we tend to forget about right here at home.
Below are some links to websites where you can get more information on ways to support various relief efforts or causes. Even if it's just to get some information on these organizations, at least it's helping to get the word out. Some of the ways in which you can help include things we all do on a daily or weekly basis: shopping! Buy items from companies that send proceeds to charities. Shop on a website that supports a specific cause with specialty products or a portion of their sales. Load up on goodies and help a good cause at the same time!
AMERICAN RED CROSS
There are Red Cross donation sites all over the country, making it easy to drop off supplies or a monetary donation. Or hey, even offer your services as a volunteer for a blood drive or relief distribution! Red Cross is supported by celebrities like Penn Badgley, Rascal Flatts and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Another major organization. UNICEF provides ongoing support and assistance to over 150 countries – from clean drinking water to vaccinations and food/supplies. Audrey Hepburn (one of my role models) was an ambassador for UNICEF, and now celebrities like Alyssa Milano and Sarah Jessica Parker continue to carry the torch. There are also plenty of corporate partners like American Airlines, Gucci, the NBA and Microsoft, all of which donate continuously throughout the year and sell specialty products and services that help to fund their donations. If you go to their corporate sponsor page you can view the entire list, and then shop from their companies, knowing that some of your money will be helping others both directly and indirectly.
Hundreds of Etsy sellers have shown support for the relief efforts in Japan by listing their items with the tags "joyforjapan" or "artistaid," so when users search for those tags, the search results populate with items that are being sold to aid in the disaster relief efforts in Japan. It's a great way for a smaller indie companies to make a big impact.
The fight against AIDS/HIV is a global effort being led by AmFar, which was created 25 years ago. Former President Bill Clinton has focused a lot of his charitable attention on this foundation, and AmFar is also supported by people like Kenneth Cole (currently the Chairman of the Board), Susan Sarandon and, of course, the late Elizabeth Taylor. This is a constant battle that should not be overlooked and forgotten in the midst of natural disasters.
This goes hand-in-hand with the ONE Project, which was co-founded by Bono and other campaigners as a way to achieve change through advocacy.
The Clinton Foundation has grown in size and importance over the years, notably in their support of Haiti relief efforts. The Clinton Foundation also focuses on climate change, HIV/AIDS and Malaria, childhood obesity and promoting economic opportunity. If you do a Google search for products that direct proceeds to the Clinton Foundation, you will be able to look through a multitude of different options and ways of supporting this cause.
NOT ON OUR WATCH
This charity has been in the news a lot lately, as George Clooney has been very vocal about getting the word out. It was founded by Don Cheadle, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and a few others. The mission of Not On Our Watch is to end genocide by offering "humanitarian assistance and protection for the vulnerable, marginalized and displaced."
THE ANIMAL RESCUE SITE
This website was a recommendation from my friend Tamra. She bought some cute boots from this site, and I was intrigued by the purpose of this organization. It's part of the GreaterGood Network and aims to "provide simple, effective, feel-good ways to address an urgent, specific need: providing food and vital care for some of the eight million unwanted animals given to shelters every year in the U.S., as well as animals in desperate need around the world." As a pet owner myself, I could make a connection with this and bought a number of cute things in support of their cause. The GreaterGood Network also includes the Hunger Site, the Breast Cancer Site, the Veterans Site, the Child Health Site, the Literacy Site and the Rainforest Site – each site sells campaign-specific products to support their causes.
This was a difficult website for me to read through, and even to look at. Pictures of abused animals, stories of deplorable conditions that animals were found in – it disgusts me to no end. I can't watch the ASPCA commercials on TV without crying, so I change the channel every time it comes on. However, their purpose is to build support in their cause by appealing to the emotions of everyday people...and they do a darn good job of it. If I could rescue every single abused or neglected animal in the country, I wouldn't think twice. But we can help the animals – by donating to the ASPCA. If you visit the website, you'll find many different opportunities for supporting their cause. Even if it's a small donation, every cent helps. I plan on making a contribution this weekend.
Autism Speaks is an organization that helps to fund research in the prevention methods, treatments and potential cure for autism, while also raising awareness of autism and its effects on families. Autism Speaks has a great fan page on Facebook that sends out a number of helpful articles, and the website can give you more information on ways to help this cause. Autism touches so many people's lives, yet it's still such a mystery to so many people. The only way we'll ever learn more about autism is if the research is funded and scientists/professionals are able to spend the time and money needed to gain insight into the lives of autistic children and adults.