Hurricanes Irma and Maria have wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, leaving millions of Americans without food, water, and power. Here's how you can help.
It's been a bad year for hurricanes in the U.S., with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria leaving devastation in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and killing dozens of Americans. While rescue and relief efforts have kicked into full gear for Florida and Texas, the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have seen far less assistance come their way—despite the fact that the double whammy of Irma and Maria wiped out Puerto Rico's electrical grid, leaving millions of U.S. citizens without power, and with dwindling supplies of food, drinking water, and other necessities.
So how can you—and your kids—help? Here are a few little ways to make a big impact.
1. Donate stuff
Several organizations are working specifically to provide relief in the Caribbean islands impacted by the storm.
• Unidos Por Puerto Rico, created by Puerto Rico's First Lady Beatriz Rosselló, provides aid where it's needed most, and works in conjunction with private sector companies to help with relief and rebuilding efforts.
• The Miami Foundation has set up separate funds earmarked for Florida and for the Caribbean, along with an overarching Hurricane Fund.
• The National Association of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) seeks donations of money, and will be seeking volunteers to aid in relief efforts as well.
• The former U.S. Presidents' One America Appeal, which was created to provide aid in Texas and Florida, has expanded to include Puerto Rico.
• GoFundMe has collected a number of different efforts onto one Puerto Rico page, including doctors looking to provide medical care, people looking to provide tarps and other necessary supplies, and other specialized donations.
2. Give money if you can
Clothing, diaper, and food drives are less helpful to relief efforts for the Caribbean, where the cost of storing, sorting, and transporting items could be cost-prohibitive. So most relief organizations are looking for donations of money they can use to mobilize the exact types of help needed to the region. You can donate to the charities listed above, or look for charities on a site like Charity Navigator, which rates charities based on how donations are spent and other factors to help you find ones that put most of their money toward helping instead of overhead.
3. Call your local representative
You might also consider calling your lawmakers to encourage them to waive the Jones Act for an extended period for Puerto Rican ports. This law keeps ships from foreign countries from transporting fuel from one U.S. port to another, and has kept some ships that could provide much-needed fuel from unloading them in Puerto Rico. President Trump waived the rule for Puerto Rico, but only for the next several days.
4. Get your kids involved
This is the perfect opportunity to teach about charity and sharing—and show kids how they can make a direct impact and help others.
• Raid the piggy bank. Start now to teach your kids the importance of sharing through charity. You can have them donate a portion of their allowance (and maybe even pick up a few extra chores) to add to your donation.
• Organize a lemonade stand or bake sale. Kids in my neighborhood hosted a lemonade stand for hurricane relief—and it's a great way to encourage your little entrepreneurs to give back.
• Host a garage sale. Clear out clutter, outgrown toys and help a worthy cause? It's a win-win here.
• Let your child choose the charity. With several options out there, they can choose one that suits their interests—whether it's organizations working with children, those providing food or those helping with medical needs.