How to soften the blow from recent hurricanes and earthquakes

172386 full

Back-to-back natural disasters in Mexico and across the Caribbean have left millions of people reeling.

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck central Mexico on Tuesday, Sept. 19 crumpled buildings and killed more than 200 people. And it hit while Mexico was still recovering from another deadly and powerful earthquake in the southern part of the country.

Last Wednesday, Hurricane Maria dealt Puerto Rico a direct punch, knocking out power across the entire island. Its rains led to widespread flooding and its heavy winds took roofs, snapped power lines and uprooted trees. "The Puerto Rico and San Juan we knew yesterday is no longer there," Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told NBC News.

Other parts of the Caribbean had no time to catch their breath after surviving Hurricane Irma only to be ravaged by Maria.

NPR's Jason Beaubien spent time on the U.S. Virgin Islands after Irma hit and reports, "St. Thomas was basically surviving on a lifeline out of St. Croix and Puerto Rico and that lifeline was severed by Maria."

Beaubien advises against volunteers traveling to the region to help rebuild, noting that just getting enough clean water on the islands is "a huge problem, so extra bodies will need access to clean water too."

There are other ways to extend a lifeline. Here are some charities with an on-the-ground presence and accepting donations:

Puerto Rico/Caribbean

  • My Brother's Workshop is a St. Thomas-based charity that started running a daily lunch program on the island.
  • Americares delivers medicine and aid to local health providers and is readying emergency kits for future crises.
  • GlobalGiving is supplying emergency supplies across the Caribbean in addition to longer-term recovery help.
  • All Hands Volunteers is a volunteer-driven disaster relief organization that was planning to get back to St. Thomas to help.
  • Catholic Relief Services has been working with local governments across the Caribbean to provide relief including shelter, water and kitchen kits to hurricane victims.
  • The Florida-based National Puerto Rican Leadership Council Education Fund has been helping coordinate relief efforts. President Carlos Guzman told NPR last week that they are accepting diapers, formula and water. But he added, "money is better because all the airports are shut down," and the group is trying to get goods over the island via private jets.
  • Find out more about how to help following Hurricane Maria from Charity Navigator's page on the disaster.


  • COFEM (Council of Mexican Federations): You can donate to COFEM's efforts to support those affected the earthquake in Mexico at this link, or find details to make a donation directly to COFEM's Bank of America account at this link.
  • Mexican Consulate: 
  • Topos México, an all-volunteer rescue brigade, started working in the days following the earthquake to dig out victims and is accepting support. Donation information is on their Twitter page.
  • The Mexican Red Cross or Cruz Roja Mexicana has had teams assisting in search and rescue operations. It has also put together an Amazon wish list of needed items, including tents, baby supplies and batteries.
  • Oxfam is asking for funds as it develops a response plan in coordination with the Mexican government and other aid organizations.
  • Save the Children is raising money for a children's relief fund.
  • Mexican Consulate: You can donate through the Mexican Consulate (their page is in Spanish) at this link.
  • Find out more about how to help in Mexico from Charity Navigator's page on the Mexican earthquakes.

How to make your money go further

"As when giving with any charity, try and do your due diligence about the organization you are giving to. Do friends vouch for it? Has it been endorsed by other trustworthy organizations? And watch out for scams," reports NPR's Carrie Kahn from Mexico City.

A good place to start is by looking up charities at Charity Navigator or Guidestar. Both are themselves charities that evaluate other nonprofits and track where their money goes.

What organizations do you think are doing good work to help those affected by these recent disasters? Let us know in the comments.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


With contributions from KPCC Staff

blog comments powered by Disqus