8 Ways You Can Help After A Tragedy (Even When You're Broke)

8 Ways You Can Help After A Tragedy (Even When You're Broke)

Yes, it IS possible!
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Earlier this month, a local nightclub turned their weekly "Wet and Wild" contest into an incredible fundraising opportunity. All of the money bid on contestants that night was donated to help the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. I was ready and eager to make a contribution myself until I pulled out my wallet and realized... I'm broke.

Okay, so that wasn't actually a new realization. I lost my job two months ago, and am still searching high and low for a new one. I'm also a full-time student whose financial aid has yet to disburse, and already have about four years of student debt on my tail. I've been paying for my groceries for weeks with gift cards I earned doing surveys online in between homework and filling out job applications. Even that same night my boyfriend offered to pay my cover charge for the club because he knew I wouldn't be able to afford it.

But despite all that, I still know with a heavy heart that many of those who were affected by any of the current disasters that have struck our world - whether it be a hurricane, a fire, or a shooting - were in a way worse position than I was. So, how could I help? I wasn't really sure at first, which is why I went home and compiled this list of 8 ways you can help those in need without emptying your pockets.


1.) Give what you DO have.

I may not have ample amounts of cash to hand over to disaster victims. But, you know what I do have? A large bag full of old clothes I've been meaning to take to the thrift store. A box of non-perishable pasta mix that I forgot to read the allergy label on before I bought it. An extra towel in the bathroom cupboard, right beside that unopened box of tampons I'll likely never need again. Some garbage bags that were too small to fit our kitchen trashcan. All of these items were on the list provided by United Puerto Rico of material donations needed by victims of the Puerto Rico hurricane. There were also plenty of other common, household items on the list too including diapers, dish soap, extension cords, and pillows. In Oregon, they are also currently seeking donations for supplies to help rebuild the homes and communities lost to the Grant County wildfire. Some items on the wishlist organized by Fairgrounds Relief Center include hoses, hand tools, shovels, axes, power tools, generators, hammers, and light bulbs. If you've got an extra something lying around, consider donating what you have to disaster victims who can't currently get a hold of these items.

2.) Donate blood.

Whether there was a natural disaster or an act of violence, acts of devastation often leave many people injured without enough resources to help everyone. Following the recent terrorist attack in Las Vegas, for example, over 500 people are reported to be in need of medical attention. If you are close enough to the Las Vegas area and meet the necessary criteria, you can donate your blood to those in need. Bloodworks, a popular blood bank with locations throughout the Northwest, currently has twelve offices open Tuesday - Sunday for those who can donate blood to the Las Vegas victims. If you are able to donate, you can sign up for an appointment at the office nearest you via the Bloodworks website, or by calling 1-800-398-7888.

3.) Watch out for their furry friends.

Are you an animal lover? Have room for a few extra paws at your place? Consider fostering animals whose families are struggling after a tragedy. Shelters in Texas are overflowing with thousands of pets who were not allowed in hotels, had to be left behind, or somehow got out during Hurricane Harvey. The SPCA of Texas and Austin Pets Alive are both seeking foster homes for all these new arrivals. According to Austin Pets Alive, the amount of dogs currently in their care have tripled! If some belly scratches and a few park dates with Fido sound right up your alley, check out the websites above for information on how you can get involved in fostering pets affected by Harvey.

4.) Use your time.

Not everyone lives close enough to physically help out after an area has been struck by tragedy. But, if you do, one of the best ways to lend a hand is to literally lend a hand. Especially if you have a certain skill that can be useful in times of need. In Mexico City, for example, there is currently a demand for volunteers with experience in architecture and medical care after the recent earthquake. Even if you aren't nearby after disasters strike, do a search for any groups or events in your area that are dedicated to providing assistance. Schools, churches, and community centers are great places to start. They may need volunteers for an already planned fundraiser, or even just an extra word-of-mouth. If all else fails, try organizing something on your own! Even if you don't have the funds to donate yourself, your friends, family, or community may be willing to pitch in if you get the ball rolling.

5.) Give up your airline miles.

Are you a frequent flier? If so, you may be able to donate some of the miles you have racked up. There are many disaster victims who cannot afford to leave these areas to get to a safer place. Delta, United, American Airlines, Southwest, and other major airlines have programs set up where members can donate existing miles via a charity program, who will then in turn give those miles to those in need. Some of these programs do have a mile-minimum, so be sure to check with your airline loyalty program to see if you are eligible to help.

6.) Open up your doors...

If you have an extra bed, you may be able to offer the space up to someone in need. The companies AirBNB and HipCamp are working with those in certain areas to provide free, temporary housing to those in disaster zones. If you are in certain areas of Florida, Alabama, Texas, or the Carolinas, you can list your home on AirBNB for free to those left without shelter from the hurricanes. If you are in California in the areas of Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Marin, Mendocino, or North Alameda, the AirBNB option is also available to help those who cannot return home following the fires in Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino counties. Also in California, you can get in contact with the staff at HipCamp and let them know if you are able to host those in need of a place to stay.

7.) ... And your Wi-Fi Connections

Emergency services in Mexico City are asking people near the areas affected by the earthquake to make their private wi-fi connections public. Why? The Internet is one of the strongest means of communication that we have today. An open access point to the Internet could help people find their missing loved ones, shelter, transportation, or access to emergency services if needed. A similar request was made last year following the devastating earthquake in Italy, after locals realized phone lines were down yet many still had ways to access the Internet if given an open wi-fi connection nearby. Check out this article to see how to open up your networks safely, so your good deed does not get taken advantage of by the wrong crowd.

8.) Share, share, share!


If you're reading this, I'm going to have to assume you've got access to the Internet in some form. Believe it or not, your presence on social media can actually be extremely helpful following a tragedy. After the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester earlier this year, this Twitter thread with information on those who went missing was re-tweeted almost 60,000 times. That's close to 60,000 people seeing and sharing this information so others knew who to keep an eye out for! Following any tragedy, I try to share any and all information I come across: whether it be links to fundraisers, phone numbers for victims and families to call, pictures of those missing, individual stories of victims, or anything else that helps get important information out there. One extra click could make a huge difference. To get you started, I've listed some links below to various fundraisers, organizations, and donation sites for many of the areas that have recently witnessed tragedy. Obviously, there are more out there, so if you know of any others let me know in the comments or send me a tweet!

AARP Foundation (Texas)

American Kidney Fund (Texas)

Boys and Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico)

California Victim Compensation Board (Vegas)

Carter Blood Care (Texas)

Center for Volunteer and Non Profit Leadership (California)

Coalition for the Homeless of Houston and Harris County (Texas)

Community Foundation of Mendocino County (California)

Corpus Christi Food Bank (Texas)

Councilman Greenfield's Amazon Wishlist (Puerto Rico)

Direct Relief (Mexico, Puerto Rico, Texas, and Florida)

Facebook Crisis Response Page for Northern California (California)

Feeding Texas (Texas)

Florida Health (Florida)

Food Bank of the Golden Crescent (Texas)

Foundation for Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico)

Friends of the Columbia Gorge (Oregon)

Galveston Food Bank (Texas)

Global Giving: Florida (Florida)

Global Giving: Hurricane Harvey (Texas)

Global Giving: Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico)

Hood River County Sheriff and Search and Rescue (Oregon)

Houston Food Bank (Texas)

Las Vegas Victim's Fund (Vegas)

Napa Valley Community Foundation (California)

OXFAM Mexico (Mexico)

Project Paz (Mexico)

Reinas Unidas Fundraiser (Puerto Rico)

Rocket Dog Rescue (California)

Samaritan's Purse (Texas)

Save the Children (Florida)

Save the Children (Mexico)

Save the Children (Puerto Rico)

Save the Children (Texas)

Sonoma County Resilence Fund (California)

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (Texas)

South Texas Blood and Tissue Center (Texas)

Texas Diaper Bank (Texas)

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (Texas)

The Greater Houston Community Foundation (Texas)

Topos Mexico (Mexico)

UNICEF Mexico (Mexico)

UNICEF Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico)

Unidos Hispanic Federation (Puerto Rico)

United for Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico)

United Way (Mexico)

United Way of Greater Houston (Texas)

Volunteer Florida (Florida)

Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada (Vegas)

Wildland Firefighter Foundation (Oregon)

World Central Kitchen (Puerto Rico)

World Vision (Puerto Rico)










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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.
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You won't see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won't laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won't go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They'll miss you. They'll cry.

You won't fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won't get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won't be there to wipe away your mother's tears when she finds out that you're gone.

You won't be able to hug the ones that love you while they're waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won't be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won't find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won't celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won't turn another year older.

You will never see the places you've always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You'll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges, and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it's not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don't let today be the end.

You don't have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It's not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I'm sure you're no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won't do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you'll be fine." Because when they aren't, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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Part 1: Necessary Changes

One of my favorite movies is "Fried Green Tomatoes" with Kathy Bates. In the movie Bates' character Evelyn Couch says, "Someone helped put a mirror up in front of my face, and I didn't like what I saw one bit. And you know what I did? I changed." I know the feeling.

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I looked in the mirror over the weekend and didn't like what I saw.

The person I saw looking back at me is petty, selfish, manipulative, and unattractive. It wasn't that I hated what I saw, but I definitely didn't like what I saw either. It's a surreal feeling, looking at yourself through a critical lens, and it doesn't make you feel good in any way shape or form.

The image that I see of myself is not how I want others to perceive me. I want to be someone that people look at and see kindness, compassion, strength, and confidence.

I have enough general life experience to know that these types of changes aren't going to happen overnight, and not all of them will be physical; most of these will have to happen from the inside, from within myself.

When you find out you are all broken and damaged, it's hard to know where to start putting the pieces back together. I figured the best place to start would be the most literal: my actual insides; so, I decided to embark on a deep-cleansing journey to get all of the toxins out of my body, from the inside out.

I found this book on 10-day green smoothie detox stashed away in the dark corner of my bookshelf. The science behind it seems accurate and legitimate. By eliminating certain foods, your body is able to detox itself off of chemicals and foods that are slowing down your metabolism; the smoothies are specifically designed with combinations of foods that help restart your metabolism. Part of the detox process is getting rid of all dependencies on caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.

Every day you are given the recipe for a specific smoothie; you make the smoothie (about 40 ounces) and sip on it throughout the day whenever you get hungry. Every smoothie is a combination of leafy greens, water, fruit, and flax seeds. If you do happen to get hungry throughout the day, you are encouraged to eat raw nuts, hard boiled eggs, and a wide variety of crunchy green vegetables. There is also a detox tea that you have first thing in the morning, but other than that no other beverages are allowed except water.

I know that this is only the beginning of a very long, emotional, and draining journey. But I think I'm at the point in my life where I have to make these changes. I have to put my pieces together, I have to become a normal functioning adult, I have to find out who I am. I think that this is the perfect way to start.

For the next 10 days I am going to be documenting my experiences, how I'm feeling, what my emotions are doing, and any results that I see.

Stay tuned!

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