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Nepal’s recent devastating earthquake has forever changed the lives of its residents. For our latest installment of “Giving Tuesday,” a series where we share travel-themed charities, new TPG Contributor Carly Blatt explores a few key ways you can help make a difference.
The magnitude 7.8 earthquake that rocked Nepal over the weekend left an estimated 4,000 people dead and tens of thousands without shelter, power and other necessities. The country’s largest since 1934, this quake was centered in the Gorkha district (50 miles northwest of the capital city of Kathmandu), and more than six million people live within 60 miles of the epicenter.
Centuries-old historic temples and statues in the capital were transformed into rubble, generations of families have become displaced because their homes were flattened, and hospitals have quickly became overwhelmed. Among the hardest hit were nearby rural mountain villages, which are proving difficult for rescue teams to reach due to landslides and other obstacles. Powerful aftershocks continue to shake the country and further traumatize the quake’s survivors.
If you’ve been following media reports of the devastation and wondering how you can help in a meaningful way, please read on:
Give Money, Not Goods
Hands down, the best way you can help with recovery efforts is by opening up your wallet—not your closet—to make a monetary contribution to a reputable nonprofit. Although you may hear media reports stating those impacted are in need of some of the items that you might have in your home, nonprofit organizations are requesting that you not send them. One of the least helpful actions you can take is to donate items, particularly in the case of a disaster in another country.
In past disasters, donated “stuff” like canned goods, water, toiletries and clothing has proven to be more of a hinderance than a help. These items take substantial time, energy and effort to sort through, require massive amounts of storage space and often cost far more to ship to the disaster zone than they’re actually worth. Also, in many cases, some of the items well-intentioned people donate may not be culturally appropriate, let alone needed.
With a monetary donation, your funds can help humanitarian organizations buy supplies locally where they’re much less expensive and easier to transport to the people who need them most. Plus, it helps revitalize the local economy, which leads to regaining economic stability.
Make Sure the Charity You Choose is Legitimate
Giving is important, but it’s also vital to give to an organization that will use your money wisely. Following any major disaster, you’re likely to see scam artists and newly created “charities” pop-out of the woodwork claiming to be helping people affected by the tragedy. Before you give, take a moment to check out y0ur chosen organization on Charity Navigator, Guidestar or the Better Business Bureau to ensure your donation will be in good hands.
Also, be wary of casual fundraising events that charge cash at the door which the organizers plan to donate later to charity. To make sure your money goes to the right place, bring a checkbook and offer to write a check directly to the organization.
Consider Giving an Unrestricted Donation
Many charities that help communities affected by disaster note that huge amounts of money come in when a major emergency is publicized in the media—but donations tend to dip during the rest of the year when everyday disasters like fires and floods occur. Although it’s tempting to restrict your donation to whichever disaster is currently being featured 24/7 on TV, you’ll provide the most help if you give an unrestricted contribution that the nonprofit can use toward disasters year-round. If you give online, make sure to choose the unrestricted donation choice if its available. If you’re sending a check, leave the memo field blank so the organization can put your contribution toward the disaster that needs it the most.
You can double the impact of your donation if your employer participates in a matching gifts program. Check the nonprofit’s website for a Matching Gift form and to see if your employer is part of the program. If not, ask your HR department to apply.
Below are links to several of the numerous nonprofit organizations that are taking an active role in helping the communities affected by the earthquake, including a foundation associated with travel companies that run trips in Nepal.
As an added bonus: if you use a mileage or points credit card to make your donation, you’ll also benefit.
If you’re a member of United’s MileagePlus program, they’ll reward you with MileagePlus miles if you make a donation to Airlink, AmeriCares, The American Red Cross and Operation USA through this link. You’ll receive 250 miles when you donate $50-$99, 500 miles when you donate $100-$249 or 1,000 miles when you donate $250 or more. They will award up to 5 million miles to members for contributions made before May 15, 2015 and will provide up to $50,000 total in matching donations to the partner organizations.
And here are some other resources that will help provide direct aid to earthquake survivors in Nepal:
The American Red Cross
Habitat for Humanity International
Doctors Without Borders
Save the Children
The Intrepid Foundation
(Supported by Intrepid Travel, Peregrine Adventures, Geckos Adventures and The Family Adventure Company)
If any TPG readers know of other ways people can help the people of Nepal affected by this earthquake, or would like to share news of relief efforts on the ground in the country, please leave a comment below.