Giving Guidelines in response to a disaster.

The following are some practical tips and points to consider when considering what to donate in response to a disaster incident. More than anything only give what is being asked for by those who are making the appeal. Don’t be fooled into thinking that giving something is better than giving nothing. Nothing is in fact better than something when that something is so broken, old, smelly or damaged that the recipient can only feel valueless in the face of such a donation.

  • Think about the right sort of packaging for your gifts. No one likes to receive donated goods in a black plastic bin bag, or a cardboard box which has the bottom falling out.
  • Check whether the food items are safe to eat. Tinned food which has expired should not be given unless you first receive the recipients’ permission. This means a gentle conversation during which you explain that you have some expired food which you do not wish to pass on, unless the recipients choose to take it. Food must be giving in the size and form requested.
  • Clothing items being must be in good condition. Do not give anything that needs to be repaired. A jacket with a broken zip cannot be zipped up, so the zip needs to be replaced first. Likewise, missing buttons must be sewn back on, and torn clothing mended. If it is not possible to upgrade the garment to something that looks nice, do not donate it.
  • Odd pairs of shoes are useless! High heels are not practical because their use is very limited, and it is usually impossible to pack them as a gift without damaging the packaging.
  • All jars, bottles, tubes, packets, boxes, etc must be unopened when given. This includes toiletries. Germs can be spread by passing on used toiletries. Never pass on medication of any kind, whether already opened or not.
  • Baby formula is not a good thing to give unless you are 100% sure that the water available to the recipients is safe.
  • Computer equipment or electrical goods are only useful if in 100% working condition. If you are recovering from a disaster you will not have the resources to get them repaired. For that matter you may well not have the resources to store them. These things may be better given later on, once the recipients have a safe place to store them.
  • Never give underwear unless it is brand new and in its original packaging. It is an insult to someone’s dignity to give second-hand underwear no matter how clean.
  • Books and magazines are not practical. Think about the fact that someone recovering from a disaster will have little or no storage space to put things. The same goes for evening or swim wear.
  • Where possible give clothing that matches the season at the time of the disaster.
  • For clothing, clear plastic packaging is best. That way the recipient can see the contents, neatly folded and presented in a way that looks appealing. Never use bin bags as it will only convey that the recipient is rubbish him or herself. For food, use sturdy cardboard boxes or plastic or wooden crates. It is safest to assume you will not get them back.
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