Donation assistance for disasters abroad
Canadians feel strongly about helping to support communities affected by natural disasters and other emergencies abroad. The best way for Canadians to help during an emergency situation is to donate money to experienced humanitarian organizations.
On this page
- Cash donations
- Turn donated goods into cash donations
- Food, clothing and other goods
- Before volunteering your services
Cash donations are the fastest, most efficient way to get help to people living in a disaster zone.
They allow relief agencies to:
- buy supplies based on the specific needs of people
- get aid to affected populations as quickly as possible
- support the local economy, which may have been seriously affected by the disaster
In most cases, it is more cost-effective to purchase goods locally than to airlift supplies from far away. Also, local goods can be purchased in much less time than it takes to organize the logistics of an airlift from a distant country.
The Canada Revenue Agency has a frequently updated list of registered charities.
Search the International Development Project Browser for humanitarian partners and relief agencies that the Government of Canada works with to deliver humanitarian assistance in affected areas.
Turn donated goods into cash donations
There are ways to turn clothes, toys and other goods into cash donations. Some ideas to consider:
- Organize a community garage sale, auction or raffle. Donate all the proceeds to a recognized relief agency. Left-over goods can be donated to a local charity or shelter.
- Ask for food donations for use in a community potluck. Have each person make a small cash donation for the food that they eat. Left-over non-perishable food items can be donated to a local food bank.
Food, clothing and other goods
Before donating food, clothing and other goods in times of humanitarian crises, consider the following:
- Relief workers on the ground can lose valuable time sorting through boxes of privately donated goods.
- Food, clothing and other goods may not be appropriate for the climate or the culture of the affected population. For example, survivors may need light-weight tents in the case of a hurricane in the summer, or winterized tents in the case of an earthquake in the winter.
- If goods donated are not appropriate for a given crisis, they may end up not being used, leading to waste.
- Items will be subject to the import regulations of a given country. Goods refused entry will clog up air and seaports. This could delay the processing and release of essential relief supplies.
- Donations of out-of-date medicine and medical supplies can do more harm than good to the health and survival of an affected population. Countries regulate the import of medicine, so some may be forbidden from passing through a country's customs.
Before volunteering your services
If you are thinking about volunteering your services, consider the following:
- Rescue services are typically needed for a short period of time. Experienced search-and-rescue teams, often located closer than Canada, can be on the ground quicker.
- The need for life-saving first aid, and other immediate medical assistance, is usually short-lived. This is usually provided by health services in the affected country or from nearby countries.
- Many agencies have rosters of local and international volunteers who live near the affected area. People with relevant field experience and language skills can navigate the situation most effectively.
- Many countries require entry visas that can take weeks to get. In addition, specific vaccinations may be required.
If you have skills that can be useful in a humanitarian crisis, register with a relief organization as a volunteer. They can provide advice on how to prepare to assist in a disaster zone with short notice.
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