One of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded, Hurricane Dorian, has devastated the Bahamas, leaving at least seven dead and tens of thousands of homes and businesses destroyed, according to reports. Entire communities have reportedly been "wiped out," and aid agencies estimate that tens of thousands of people will need support.
"We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country's history," Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told a news conference. "No effort or resources will be held back."
Agencies are mobilizing to offer disaster relief assistance. Here's what you can do to help.
Monetary donations are important for disaster relief organizations to fund recovery efforts, experts say, and should be prioritized over contributing physical items, unless an organization asks for specific things. Stick to lists provided by the government of the Bahamas or the organizations themselves when donating goods. Rescue workers don't want supplies to go to waste.
Here are six organizations that are working on the ground or in concert with organizations in the Bahamas. The Bahamas has also set up an online resource center that is providing updates on relief efforts.
Operated by the City of Miami, this relief effort is collecting hurricane relief supplies for affected areas in the Bahamas. You can find a list of desired donations and drop-off locations in Miami here.
National Association of the Bahamas
The NAB is a Bahamas-based nonprofit that has been operating since 1993. You can donate to relief efforts on its website. There are also drop-off locations in Florida for goods such as water bottles, non-perishable food, clothes and basic toiletries.
Miami-Dade county is collecting supplies requested by the government of the Bahamas, including tents, cots, hygiene kits, purified water, portable generators and more. They are asking that people donating supplies stick to those on the list. They have set up a disaster relief website where you can learn more about making donations and drop-off points for supplies.
Operation Helping Hands
Operation Helping Hands works with the local United Way and other agencies to support immediate and long-term needs in affected areas. You can donate on its website.
Bahamas Red Cross
The Bahamian branch of the Red Cross is seeking donations of money and supplies, including non-perishable baby clothes, cleaning supplies and bedding.
International Medical Corps
This global humanitarian nonprofit sends medical teams to areas stricken by disasters. You can help efforts by donating on its website.
The crowd-funding company has set up a page of verified campaigns from individuals, families and organizations impacted by Hurricane Dorian. It's advised to give to these campaigns as opposed to random ones you might find online, as scams abound after disasters (more on that below).
Americares, a nonprofit that provides emergency medical care, is on the ground in the Bahamas, "actively assessing health needs" and "preparing emergency shipments of medicine and relief supplies." It is also ready to send medical teams to help survivors. You can donate on its website.
While a tax benefit may not be on your mind when you are giving, remember that donations to qualified organizations are tax deductible if you itemize your taxes.
While it's normal to want to help in any way possible in the aftermath of such a tragedy, experts advise the kind-hearted to be careful: Scams abound after natural disasters. Before giving to an organization, crowd-funding effort or social media post claiming to be from a victim of the hurricane, research whoever is behind it.
The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance says it's best to stick to donating to experienced disaster relief organizations, particularly immediately after a disaster occurs.
"See if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas," the BBB advises. "Unless the charity already has skilled operations in the affected areas, it may be difficult to provide assistance quickly and effectively. See if the charity's website or appeal clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate relief needs as well as longer-term recovery needs."
It's best to research established organizations on a site like Charity Navigator or Guidestar, and donate through its website directly, rather than through an email or other medium, which could be a scam. Make sure you understand exactly how your donation will be used. "Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider 'avoiding the middleman' and give directly to charities that have a presence in the region," notes the BBB.
In the case of crowd-funding, it's best to give to a person you actually know, rather than a random individual on the internet, unless you find them on a verified page, like GoFundMe's. The Federal Trade Commission offers more tips here.
If you suspect someone is running a scam relief effort, you can report it to your state's Attorney General's office.
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