Mar 23, 2011

Disaster Relief: Which Aid Groups to Trust?

Chuck MisslerBy Dr. Chuck Missler
Koinonia House

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When a 9.0 earthquake hit Japan 11 days ago, the whole world stood in dismay. The devastation has been readily covered by major news outlets every day since, and the millions of people immediately affected by the earthquake and resulting tsunami have wrung hearts of compassion around the world.

The magnitude of the March 11 Tōhoku earthquake defies comprehension. In 1989, the "World Series" Loma Prieta earthquake killed 63 people and left 3,000-12,000 people homeless in northern California. It measured 6.9 on the Richter scale. The recent Japanese quake, by comparison, measured 9.0 – nearly 126 times greater in magnitude than the Loma Prieta quake. Parts of Japan moved eastward 13 feet, and the earthquake shifted the earth's figure axis by 6.5 inches according to Richard S. Gross, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. So far, over 9,300 deaths have been reported, with 13,786 people still missing. The World Bank estimated on Monday that the earthquake and tsunami caused about $235 billion in damage.

We outside of the earthquake zone look at the massive suffering in Japan even now and wonder what we can best do to help? Should we send blankets and medical supplies? To whom should we send money? Which charities and organizations are in the best position to help, and which ones will spend donated money well?

Unfortunately, as with every disaster, sharks smelling blood readily take advantage of the situation. Con artists can easily defraud generous people who want to help. Aid organizations do indeed need assistance, and our donations can provide a great deal of good, but we need to know who we can trust to do the job well.

First, before donating to any organization, it is wise to follow some simple guidelines:

  1. Be cautious about telemarketers asking for donations. Never give out personal financial information over the phone.
  2. Donate online only through established charities. Look up the official websites of your favorite charities rather than clicking links on donation-request emails that may be from imposters.
  3. Research charitable organizations before sending a donation. Not all charities spend money efficiently, and watchdog organizations exist to double-check established charities to make sure most of the money donated to help disaster victims actually goes to help disaster victims.
  4. Do homework to find out which charities are able to do the most good in a particular disaster. One group might have been right there on the street after Hurricane Katrina and may have been pulling people out of the wreckage in Haiti, but might not have as much involvement in disaster relief in Asia.
  5. Contact favorite charities directly in order to find out what type of aid they are giving in the Tōhoku earthquake disaster and what types of donations are most needed. Many charities prefer not to receive clothes or blankets that have to be shipped at great expense. Money is generally the best gift, because charities can buy exactly what they need according to their specific missions.
Japan is a well-organized country and has dealt with earthquakes and tsunamis in the past (though not on this scale). It has strong disaster response measures in place. According to Oxfam-Japan Executive Director Akiko Mera, "The Japanese state has the means to reach 99% of the population, but there will always be some who need more specific assistance."

The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) suggests waiting until aid organizations have figured out their exact roles in the crisis before donating. Some aid organizations are providing food and shelter and medical assistance right now, while others will need to assist people in rebuilding their lives long after the tragedy has left the headlines. Homes will need to be rebuilt. Traumatized victims of the earthquake and tsunami will need support and counseling. People who have lost their livelihoods will need to find work. People giving donations should send their checks to those organizations that best support the kind of aid they want offered to disaster victims.

Watchdog groups like AIP and Charity Navigator have listed top rated charities – established, trustworthy charities that use donations efficiently according to the charities' specific missions. Click on the links below to find lists of aid organizations and how they rate, especially those currently involved in providing aid to Japan during this crisis.

Above all else, please keep praying for the people of Japan, that the mercy of God in Jesus Christ will be felt by all, and that God's healing and strength will pour out on the people of Japan especially during this hour of great need.

Related Links
The Best Way To Support Relief Efforts In The Aftermath Of Japanese Earthquake & Tsunami - American Institute of Philanthropy
Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: How To Help - Charity Navigator
Responding To Japan's Catastrophe - Samaritan's Purse
Japan Quake Could Cost $309 Billion - Fox Business
Quake shifted Japan coast about 13 feet, knocked Earth 6.5 inches off axis - USA Today