So I learned a new term today. Although the phenomenon has been around for years, I had not heard (or perhaps just not registered) the term SWEDOW (Stuff WE DOn't Want). So often, upon seeing pictures like the ones coming out of the Philippines this week, we feel the need to do SOMEthing. To be useful. To make a difference. And if we get to clean out our closets some in the process, well, that's just a happy bonus!
I'm am pleased to hear, more and more, after every disaster the plea to donate money rather than goods. Money travels easier. Doesn't have to be sorted or sized. Doesn't need to be warehoused. Can be used in multiple ways. And on and on and on. But, you may ask, what if there are no goods to be bought with all that cash in the disaster affected area? That may well be the case. But that still does not make truckloads of used household goods the right answer. So what to do. Here are my few suggestions:
1) Think first about supporting the national or international response agency of your choice with monetary donations to be used in the way they best see fit. For a list of just some of the great partners, you can start here.
2) If you do hear of an organization asking for donated goods, do a little homework first. Is there a plan for warehousing and distributing the goods in the disaster area? Have the goods been specifically requested by a reputable organization? (That already has a presence in the disaster area?) Are the requests for specific goods rather than "anything helps"? If you cannot find a satisfactory answer to these questions, see #1.
Disaster recovery depends on the support of good-hearted people from around the country and the world. I don't ever want to witness the day where people are not moved by the sight of other people in need. To make the most of your compassion, do your research. Ask some questions. And find ways to help that really help.