I am going to break this story into a few parts because otherwise it will be really, really long. I wanted to share because this experience really taught me a lot. I hope you will extend me the latitude to talk about this a bit. I would love to hear your thoughts along the way!
As most of you know, I extended my trip to Alabama so that I could volunteer with the relief efforts. I must admit that I was a bit naive. I imagined getting out there and sifting through rubble with homeowners and making a big difference. Reality kind of bit me in the butt.
While I did do a bit of debris removal volunteer work, I quickly decided that I would volunteer in other ways where I was more qualified….because….it was HOT and I have lived in Canada long enough that toiling in the noonday sun in 90 degree heat and 100% humidity is NOT a good idea. Also, debris removal can be very dangerous. I heard story after story of homeowners and volunteers getting seriously injured while doing clean up. While I admire those that are willing to put themselves in harms way…..I just couldn’t because I need to be able to care for my family and work. I also didn’t want to get injured in a foreign country (even though it is my home country…I don’t have insurance there). So I hung up my workboots and turned my focus on buying donations and working to help distribute them to those in need.
While in Calgary, I put out an email to friends and coworkers explaining what I planned to do and asking them to help. I raised over $800 in donations. I continue to be amazed at the generosity of people that have rarely, if ever, visited Alabama. That fact didn’t matter….they saw people suffering and wanted to help. Again, though, I think I was a bit naive. I thought it would be very easy to find a great organization to work with that would be able to tell me what donations they needed. I followed relief organizations on Facebook and pored over their requests. At first it looked so easy but as the days passed, some of the comments turned nasty. “Don’t give your money here….they are stealing from the victims!” “Don’t give your money here….they only help those with a FEMA number and don’t help those that really need it!”. It went on and on. I started feeling panicky because I wasn’t sure what to do. I had been give the responsibility to be the steward of the money donated. I wanted to make sure that I mad the money go as far as possible and that it got to the best possible organization. I started to freak out. Thankfully my mom stepped in and gave me a great piece of advice…..
“You must give with your heart and then let the responsibility go to the people you give it to. If they misuse that gift, then it is between them and God.” (paraphrased b/c I didn’t write it down)
I’m not an overly religious person, but this really calmed me down. She was right….I couldn’t control other people. There are dishonest people in this world and unfortunately disasters seem to bring them out. I could not 100% protect my donations from them. I had to do the best I could, donate & then hope for the best.
Next up….Part 2 The Easy Part….Shopping!
So……have you ever gotten wrapped up in wondering what is happening to your charity dollars? How do you get past analysis paralysis?
View a slideshow of the pictures I took while volunteering here.