This local tragedy stirs deep emotion

I’ve been having great difficulty dealing with the horror that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. My kids are often in Sandy Hook for sports and other activities, and I have spent many weekends on the sidelines of the soccer fields directly behind the school.

Holiday AngelNewtown is almost identical to my town of Weston, Connecticut, so it is very hard for me to let go of the horror by rationalizing to myself that it is far away or such a different type of community than my own. This trauma is deeper for all of us because the reality is that this could have happened anywhere and to any of us. That is what is most profoundly frightening about this event.

I have a 7 year old who is always curious, and he came home from school on Friday asking a lot of questions. After asking all the main questions, he paused and asked, “How did the kids know what to do when their teacher died?” He was obviously putting himself directly into that situation. I am very sad he has to think about these things at such an early age. As he was going to bed that night he asked, “Does God make these bad people?” I had to explain that everyday, we all wake up and have to make many decisions that can make us “good” or “bad” for that moment.

Every night now when I put him to bed, I first get a chill of realization that he could have been in that 1st grade classroom, and then I give a grateful hug that he is still here to tuck in.

It is almost impossible to comprehend the depth of tragedy and anguish that will always be a part of the Newtown community. Life is so precious—and at the same time, it can be unfair and unpredictable.

While our hearts are broken for the victims and all of those affected by this senseless tragedy,  the healing process must begin. There are many nonprofits that are currently supporting the town with: cleaning up the old school, setting up the new school, providing health services to residents in the community, supporting the firefighters, supplying aid for the memorial services, and offering ongoing activities to help the kids heal. To find out more and how to help Newtown, here’s an article that gives several ways you can be supportive.

A few charities providing the community with services that you can donate to:

kindnessMy personal belief is that we all must put a little bit of goodness back into the world and do what we can to overcome the horror by being kind to those around us. In addition to helping Newtown directly, random acts of kindness should be part of our daily routine to spread goodness. More than something we do in response to Ann Curry’s tweet…something we make part of our everyday life.

—Kendall Webb, Executive Director

Help Residents Get Relief from Superstorm Sandy

“Frankenstorm,” a combination of Hurricane Sandy, an early winter storm in the West, and arctic air from the North, has caused incalculable damage in the Caribbean and across the East Coast of the United States. Residents from Northern Canada to Bermuda are caught in the never-before-experienced aftermath of flooding, power outages, fires and devastation. Cities are struggling to supply basic services and restore order.

Give now—with a one-time donation or monthly recurring gift—so charities can get residents the help they need. Here is a list of charities on the ground, working, right now:

  • American Red Cross — Providing shelter and supplies. During the first day of the storm, Red Cross had already deployed 1,300 disaster workers and had 160 emergency vehicles ready to respond.
  • AmeriCares — Delivering medical aid and shelter supplies.
  • ASPCA — Providing shelter and food for thousands of animals.
  • City Harvest— Providing food to people in the areas hardest hit.
  • Direct Relief International— Supporting the immediate needs of those affected by working with local partners best situated to assess, respond, and prepare for long-term recovery.
  • Doctors Without Borders— Treating patients on the spot in New York and New Jersey.
  • Habitat for Humanity— Rebuilding, repairing and cleaning up in the hardest hit areas.
  • Humane Society — Supplying  shelter and food for pets.
  • Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City— Identifying immediate aid needs, including food, water and hygiene supplies, as well as long-term relief and restoration efforts.
  • Operation USA — Sending emergency, shelter and cleaning supplies to affected areas, in addition to helping health clinics restore services.
  • Samaritan’s Purse — Sending staff, equipment and volunteers to three of the affected areas on the East Coast.
  • Save the Children—Reuniting children with their families, providing child-friendly shelter.
  • United Way of America— Addressing recovery needs in communities that FEMA has declared disaster areas.
  • World Vision —Supplying flood clean-up kits, personal hygiene items, and emergency food kits.

For more charities that offer help to US disaster victims, search the JustGive Guide.

Famine – It’s a small world, after all

I am reminded daily just how small our world can be. Most recently, an earthquake on the other side of the globe could have contaminated the fish I eat for dinner or the California coastal water I swim in. Japanese trading delays affected the lines of iPad impatience outside our local Apple stores—providing a front row seat to how connected our modern world is and how faraway disasters can have ripple effects that touch us in unexpected ways.

Seemingly back to back, a stream of disasters have headlined the US media: Haiti, The Gulf Coast oil spill, earthquake and nuclear contamination in Japan, tornadoes in the South – and now the horn of Africa drought.  The UN has declared famine in several regions of war-torn Somalia during the continent’s worst drought in more than 60 years. This is a dire prognosis, given the limited aid available/allowed by the current al-Shabab regime and the mass migration of people fleeing to neighboring countries for refuge that may not exist.

Photo Credit: Business Daily

Not as many people have responded to the Somali famine as previous disasters or requests for aid. Perhaps we feel helpless, that our dollars don’t make a difference, or that we’ve donated to other causes and are already stretched thin. In the meantime, 3.2 million people, nearly half the population of Somalia, need immediate life saving assistance. To date, more than 29,000 children have already died and another 640,000 are malnourished.

Photo Credit: Associated Press, Zuydam

While living abroad, I participated in the 40-Hour Famine with World Vision Australia, where I raised money by not eating for 40 hours. It was a real life feeling of what it would be like to live and function without sustenance – luckily one that ended after a mere 2 days.

40 Hour Famine Crew at the South Australian Global Leadership Convention

Millions of people both domestically and abroad are not so fortunate.

IMAGE CREDIT: FAMINE EARLY WARNING SYSTEMS NETWORK & FOOD SECURITY AND NUTRITION ANALYSIS UNIT

I am immediately struck by the current crisis in Africa and consider it to be a GLOBAL concern and priority that children are dying of starvation in a world where there is and should be enough food for everyone. We all need to be involved, and take it personally.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

Support charities providing assistance on the ground: 

In our ever-growing and connected “small world,” my actions – and yours –can make things better.

>> Wondering how much to give? JustGive helps you get started. Consider making your gift an automatic monthly donation (just click recurring).

>> Start a charity registry and do your own famine fundraising!

>> Keep the conversation going on Facebook and Twitter – inspire your friends to be part of the solution.


— Michelle Koffler, Marketing Coordinator

The Chilean Earthquake: A disaster of personal proportions

Tsunami Caused by Chilean Earthquake

Photo by Carolina Inostroza/Flickr

The devastating 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile earlier this month caused untold damage, and aftershocks continue to reverberate across the country. The immediate focus was rescue and piecing together entire villages overtaken by tsunami waves. Many of you took quick action to help. But what comes next?

On the heels of such a devastating earthquake in Haiti, disaster fatigue is easy to understand. I’m susceptible to it myself. There are only so many stories I can read and hear before I want to tune out. But reading personal stories from people affected by the earthquake is moving, and makes what happened all the more real – hitting home about how important it is to help.

You can’t imagine the devastation. . .
Personal stories paint a picture we don’t often see on the news.

“We keep getting big aftershocks (more than 120 of them over 5 Richter) – we had one an hour ago and I’m on the 5th floor of an office building,” wrote Sharon Matthews, cousin of JustGive Founder Kendall Webb in an email.

“We have been so fortunate – all of our extended family is unharmed, although there were some close calls. Fernando’s daughter was in a brick house that collapsed entirely, and his son and (his son’s) pregnant wife were at a surfing zone that was hit with a tsunami….You can’t imagine the devastation it covers such a large geographic area. More than half a million people have lost their homes (and most lost all their personal possessions). In lots of coastal towns, what the earthquake didn’t destroy, the tsunami swept away.”

Another supporter of JustGive, Agustin F. Huneeus, Proprietor of Quintessa Wines, has family in Chile and experienced the earthquake wrote:

“The earthquake was more intense than one can imagine. A full 90 seconds of violent shaking that seemed to last forever was followed by dozens and dozens of aftershocks, some almost as intense as the first shock. For those of us that have experienced earthquakes, this one was unique—it apparently started to shake very hard immediately and without warning, jolting people out of bed disoriented and in shock. The quake was…so strong it was even hard to walk. Just imagine waking up to this, walking to your family to try and get them out of your house or apartment to safety.”

Families and livelihoods affected by destruction
Disaster is a terribly personal affair that brings together countries – and the world. The relatively small death toll from the Chile quake – approximately 500 – can obscure the massive need that exists for families. As new government officials enters office, they find a country in desperate need of emergency temporary housing to help an estimated 500,000 people whose homes were severely damaged, and whose livelihoods will be affected for years to come.

Chile’s wine industry, one of the world’s most popular, endured hundreds of millions of dollars in damage from overturned 15 foot high wine vats and stored barrels, damaged facilities, and disrupted grape growth. As Huneeus wrote:

“Veramonte suffered damages, including some buckled tanks, toppled barrels, glass and pallets of wine,” Huneeus wrote, “but overall, it was not serious and we actually feel fortunate. The wine industry as a whole, however, has suffered quite a bit of damage and has lost a large amount of wine.”

Chilean Barrels of Wine Toppled by Earthquake

Photo by Rodrigo Gomez/Flickr

About 70 percent of Chilean production takes place in areas badly affected by the quake. The damage threatens the entire 2010 harvest and exports, which will have a ripple effect on all those Chileans working in the wine industry – some 80,000 individuals. An article in USA Today details the impact.

We can all help
Chilean families need to rebuild to recover. It’s not too late to help. Individuals like Agustin Huneeus are mobilizing resources:

“In the US, we are quickly establishing programs, promotions and partnerships with retailers and other wineries from Chile to help send aid to the millions of people left hurt and homeless by this horrible disaster. For now, you can all help by supporting wines from Chile, and making contributions to organizations that are on the ground helping those in need in Chile.”

Through JustGive, you can donate now to organizations helping the country. Be sure to designate your gift to the “Chile Earthquake.” For more detail on charities working in Chile, see our last Chile blog.

Tell a friend and make a difference today!

This week’s disasters affect thousands in South Pacific and Indonesia

An 8.0 magnitude earthquake shook the South Pacific, triggering tsunami waves that damaged most of the Samoan Islands. Numerous businesses and homes were destroyed in it’s wake. The current death toll is over 100, with many more injured or missing. Numbers are expected to rise as rescue workers search through debris.

CNN.com reports the White House has declared a major disaster, making federal funding available. The US is currently sending planes with assistance to affected areas.

“I thought it was the end of the world,” said Dr. Salamo Laumoli, director of health services in American Samoa. “I have never felt an earthquake like that before.”

In Indonesia, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake left over 1,100 dead, 2,181 injured and thousands still unaccounted for. More than 2,650 buildings have been damaged in the area and landslides have disrupted power and communications.

Your donation to the following charities will help provide basic services for  those in need to restart their lives.

Americares

International Federation of Red Cross

Mercy Corps

Save The Children

World Vision

You may also search the JustGive Guide for additional Disaster Relief charities.

Looking for a way to make a difference without a big budget? When getting together with friends for dinner this weekend, choose a less expensive restaurant. Everyone can pitch in the $5 or $10 saved as a donation to a charity that will provide food and clean water to those in need.

– Sarah Myers, Program Manager