How to volunteer for disaster relief organisations

How to volunteer for disaster relief organisations
Helping others in time of dire need is something that many of us wish we could do. There are issues in the world such as HIV/Aids, natural disasters such as fires, as well as war and man-made disasters that affect countries across the globe.
It can be difficult, however, to know exactly how you can help these organisations which give aid to almost a million people each year. 

If you would like to help mitigate the impact of HIV in South Africa you can volunteer for a disaster relief organisation. There are certain criteria you will have to meet, such as having a healthy immune system, being physically strong, being able to travel to another country and being available for six to twelve months. You could also offer to volunteer a little closer to home, which would have fewer requirements but is no less meaningful. Find out how to volunteer for disaster relief below. 

- Create a fundraiser

Volunteering for a fundraiser, or coming up with one yourself, is fantastic way to raise money and awareness about a disaster situation. For example, you could create a charity run to raise funds for those in dire need of antiretroviral treatment in rural KwaZulu-Natal. 

You could also ask your colleagues to donate money to the fundraiser, or make it a fun competition between the teams, such as who can raise the most money before a certain deadline. Some people might want to donate goods such as bottled water, canned food and medical supplies but it is better to avoid these donations. The organisation will have to turn them down due to shipping costs, so money is always a better option. 

- Give blood to a cause

Whether the disaster is natural, man-made or even medical, blood is an important resource for the victims. And for South Africans, this disaster is HIV/Aids. Many people living with HIV in rural areas do not have access to blood for transfusions, and so your donation can help immensely

You will need to ensure that you meet the strict criteria of blood donations. This includes being between the ages of 16 and 65, weighing a minimum of 50kg, being in good health, and having normal blood pressure. You should be honest about your health, as this can affect your blood in a negative manner. Get a health check before donating blood to ascertain whether or not you qualify to do so. 

- Volunteer to help

Volunteering to help in any way possible is an effective way to assist disaster victims. For example, if an area has been hit by a fire in the dry weather, you can sign up to help take victims to safety and comfort them with water, food and friendship. 

If you live nearby an area that has been hit by a flood or other natural disaster, you can volunteer to help an organisation take packages to the area. Or you could go directly to the organisation and offer to answer their phones, take messages and sort through donated goods. All of this will save them time, allowing the people in the field to concentrate on what really matters. Or, if you are a medical professional you could volunteer to help in the field if you meet the requirements. 

- Volunteer for the entirety of the project

While it is important to help when the disaster actually strikes, organisations often need help for weeks and even months after the fact. If you cannot help immediately, you can provide assistance to those fixing homes that might have been damaged or setting up camps for people to live in while their neighbourhood is rebuilt. 

Many volunteer programmes have an influx of volunteers at the start of a disaster relief project, but after that, the numbers dwindle. You can help by volunteering after the main disaster has occurred, allowing the organisation to continue its efforts after the storm has ended. The same can be said of the HIV villages in South Africa. When they were new, there were numerous volunteers, and now the numbers are much lower. Offering to help late in the project is just as meaningful as at the start. 

- Make sure it is meaningful

In order for your efforts to mean something to both you and the charity, be sure to choose a cause you can realistically help. For example, you might decide to offer your time and effort in helping rescue animals from a fire or gathering clothes and food for families who have lost their homes due to the same fire. Or you could spend time reading to and cheering up children who are orphaned because of HIV/Aids. Be sure to ask the organisation exactly what they need so that you can donate the right items and volunteer your time most effectively. 
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