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How can I help when disaster strikes?

Community members walk past a food distribution site for the United Methodist Committee on Relief following Typhoon Haiyan in Dagami, Philippines. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.
Community members walk past a food distribution site for the United Methodist Committee on Relief following Typhoon Haiyan in Dagami, Philippines. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.
When disaster strikes anywhere in the world, many United Methodists want to know how they can help.


The simplest answer is to go to https://www.umcmission.org. If there is a disaster of significant magnitude, United Methodist Global Ministries will place a link at the top of the page to donate to either the U.S. or International Disaster Response and Recovery fund, depending on where the disaster occurs.

By streamlining these disaster response funds into these two accounts, Global Ministries’ United Methodist Committee on Relief is best positioned to offer the right support, in the right way, at the right time.

Giving money may seem impersonal. But when disaster strikes, whether natural or human-caused, funding is by far the most valuable, flexible and useful resource to have on hand.

Some people want to do more. They may want to donate items or go and volunteer to help.

While these impulses are understandable and laudable, sending things not specifically requested does not help. And going into a disaster zone without the training and proper supervision to handle the situation at hand can slow down the needed work or endanger those who go and others also.   

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For US-related disasters, you can always send kits for basic relief to UMCOR’s Sager-Brown Depot. When you do, be sure to follow the directions for each kit exactly so all kits are as identical as possible. This will help expedite their shipping to people in need in the US. UMCOR does not ship these kits for disasters outside the US. 

Through UMCOR, United Methodists have one of the most effective, globally deployed relief networks on the planet. UMCOR and its partner, United Methodist Volunteers In Mission (UMVIM), have trained thousands of volunteers for specific kinds of assistance. In cooperation with annual conference disaster response coordinators, UMVIM in each conference can deploy these trained volunteers where needed, especially within the United States.

After you have checked the Global Ministries website and donated money and/or supplies to UMCOR, keep checking with your annual conference disaster response website over the following weeks and months to learn when and what kind of volunteers or additional items may be needed. Just keep in mind UMCOR does not send volunteers across international borders.   

To summarize, here are three simple rules.

1. Do no harm.
Do not self-deploy or organize your own group trips to a disaster site, and do not send anything not specifically requested by UMCOR or other experienced relief organizations on the ground.

2. Do good.
Give to UMCOR’s relief funds or relief kits, knowing that UMCOR will make the best use of them with trusted partners on the ground. 

Go as a volunteer within your own country when your training and expertise match the request from your conference disaster coordinator.

3. Attend upon all the ordinances of God.
Pray for those who have been impacted and for those who are on the ground to rescue, clear debris, and assess next steps.

Fast, and donate what you would have spent on food for the meals you skipped to UMCOR.

Search the scriptures to see how God has provided for people facing disaster.

Engage in holy conferencing with others in your congregation and community about ways to respond to the current disaster and to improve your readiness for those that will come. 

In these ways you can know what you want to offer when disaster strikes really helps when and where it's needed most. 


This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.