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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Yes, I Had A Stroke And I'm Only 20

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
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Recently, I read an article on Cosmo that was written by a woman that had a stroke at the ripe old age of 23. For those of you who don't know, that really doesn't happen. Young people don't have strokes. Some do, but it's so incredibly uncommon that it rarely crosses most people's minds. Her piece was really moving, and I related a lot -- because I had a stroke at 20.

It started as a simple headache. I didn't think much of it because I get headaches pretty often. At the time, I worked for my parents, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd be late to work because of the pain. I had never experienced a headache like that, but I figured it still wasn't something to worry about. I went about my normal routine, and it steadily got worse. It got to the point that I literally threw up from the pain. My mom told me to take some Tylenol, but I couldn't get to our kitchen. I figured that since I was already in the bathroom, I would just take a shower and hope that the hot steam would relax my muscles, and get rid of my headache. So I turned the water on in the shower, and I waited for it to get hot.

At this point, I was sweating. I've never been that warm in my life. My head was still killing me. I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, trying to at least cope with the pain. Finally, I decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I picked up my phone to call 911, but I couldn't see the screen. I couldn't read anything. I laid down on the floor and tried to swipe from the lock screen to the emergency call screen, but I couldn't even manage that. My fine motor skills were completely gone. My fingers wouldn't cooperate, even though I knew what buttons needed to be pressed. Instead of swiping to the emergency call screen, I threw my phone across the room. "Okay," I thought, "Large muscle groups are working. Small ones are not".

I tried getting up. That also wasn't happening. I was so unstable that I couldn't stay standing. I tried turning off the running water of the shower, but couldn't move the faucet. Eventually, I gave up on trying to move anywhere. "At what point do I just give up and lie on the floor until someone finds me?" That was the point. I ended up lying on the floor for two hours until my dad came home and found me.

During that two hours, I couldn't hear. My ears were roaring, not even ringing. I tried to yell, but I couldn't form a sentence. I was simply stuck, and couldn't do anything about it. I still had no idea what was going on.

When the ambulance finally got there, they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back. "Are you afraid of needles or anything?" asked one EMT. "Terrified," I responded, and she started an IV without hesitation. To this day, I don't know if that word actually came out of my mouth, but I'm so glad she started the IV. She started pumping pain medicine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything.

We got to the hospital, and the doctors there were going to treat me for a migraine and send me on my merry way. This was obviously not a migraine. When I could finally speak again, they kept asking if I was prone to migraines. "I've never had a migraine in my whole life," I would say. "Do you do any drugs?" they would ask. "No," I repeated over and over. At this point, I was fading in and out of consciousness, probably from the pain or the pain medicine.

At one point, I heard the doctors say that they couldn't handle whatever was wrong with me at our local hospital and that I would need to be flown somewhere. They decided on University of Maryland in Baltimore. My parents asked if I wanted them to wait with me or start driving, so I had them leave.

The helicopter arrived soon after, and I was loaded into it. 45 minutes later, I was in Baltimore. That was the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital two weeks later. I had a drain in my head, a central port, and an IV. I honestly didn't know what had happened to me.

As it turns out, I was born with a blood vessel malformation called an AVM. Blood vessels and arteries are supposed to pass blood to one another smoothly, and mine simply weren't. I basically had a knot of blood vessels in my brain that had swelled and almost burst. There was fluid in my brain that wouldn't drain, which was why my head still hurt so bad. The doctors couldn't see through the blood and fluid to operate, so they were simply monitoring me at that point.

When they could finally see, they went in to embolize my aneurysm and try to kill the AVM. After a successful procedure, my headache was finally starting to subside. It had gone from a 10 on the pain scale (which I don't remember), to a 6 (which was when I had started to be conscious), and then down to a 2.

I went to rehab after I was discharged from the hospital, I went to rehab. There, I learned simple things like how to walk and balance, and we tested my fine motor skills to make sure that I could still play the flute. Rehab was both physically and emotionally difficult. I was constantly exhausted.

I still have a few lingering issues from the whole ordeal. I have a tremor in one hand, and I'm mostly deaf in one ear. I still get headaches sometimes, but that's just my brain getting used to regular blood flow. I sleep a lot and slur my words as I get tired. While I still have a few deficits, I'm lucky to even be alive.

Cover Image Credit: Neve McClymont

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10 Little Luxuries We All Take For Granted Until Sick Season Strikes

Anyone have a tissue?

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Now that we're a few weeks into the new school year, the inevitable has happened: cold season is here. It seems like everyone and their roommate are sick and you can't go to class without feeling like you're surrounded by people who are about to cough up a lung. When the unavoidable happens and you, too, succumb to this disease, you realize all the wonderful things about life that you've been taking for granted in your good health...

1. The freedom to go places without a box of tissues.

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You don't dare leave your dorm or apartment without a box of tissues because we all know college professors don't bother to stock their rooms with tissues and you never know when the floodgates in your nose are going to open up. At this point, Kleenex should just sponsor you because you're a walking ad.

2. The ability to taste your food. 

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Unless it was cooked with eight jalapeños you might as well not even bother because there's no way you're going to be able to taste it. Even Mom's chicken noodle soup doesn't appeal to you unless you add four tablespoons of hot sauce to it first.

3. People sitting next to you in class. 

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One little sniffle and you suddenly find that no one is sitting within a three-seat radius of you. It kind of makes you feel like you're in exile, but you can't really blame them because you were doing the same thing the day before...

4. Oxygen.

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If you could, you'd be walking around with an oxygen tank and mask because your nose certainly isn't doing the job on its own.

5. Having a nose that doesn't make you look like Rudolph. 

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By the end of the day, your new nickname is Rudolph because your nose is raw and swollen from all the times you've blown it. The sad thing is, you don't even think Santa would want you because you're in such rough shape.

6. Your friends actually wanting to hang out with you. 

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Them: "Hey, want to hang out tonight?"

You: "Sure, I just can't stay out that late because I'm not feeling well."

Them: "You know what, I actually just remembered I have to study tonight for an exam tomorrow. Sorry, maybe another time."

You: "But it's Saturday..."

Them: ...

7. Not feeling like you're a disease-spreading monster every time you breath or touch something. 

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You can practically feel your germs spreading every time you exhale and you're almost certain that you're going to contaminate anything and anyone you come in contact with.

8. Using your discretionary income for something other than cough drops and tissues.

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At this point, you're single-handedly keeping Walgreens in business. If Kleenex isn't going to sponsor you, Walgreens should.

9. Not having to yell to hear your own voice.

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To yourself, you sound like you're whispering because your ears are so plugged up, but you soon realize that everyone in the library is turning around to give you dirty looks because you're actually yelling.

10. Making it through a lecture without sneezing 27 times.

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If your sniffly nose hasn't already given you up and scared away everyone sitting near you in class, the sneezing (or coughing) is sure to. Get ready to start being treated like you have the Black Plague.

Even though it seems like every cold is going to last for an eternity, before you know it you'll be back to normal and will be taking all of these things for granted until the next time sick season strikes. Until then, though, you better stock up on a few more boxes of tissues.

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