Disaster Registry

A few years ago a massive earthquake devastated Haiti. About 300,000 people died, and a million others were left homeless. Even years later, people are living in tent cities. The poorest country in the western hemisphere was shattered by this event, and the world responded. Tens of millions of dollars were sent; thousands of volunteers traveled to the island to build homes, provide medical care, distribute food, and meet other needs. Haiti was an example of nature at her worst and humanity at its best.

But there were a few not-too-bright spots. Cholera had been eradicated from the island but some UN workers brought in the disease which killed thousands more and added to the already overburdened medical crisis. Well-meaning donors gave clothing and household items, some of which were senseless in Haiti: heavy coats, chandeliers, gloves, and other things from (mostly US) attics. Haiti needed money, money, and more money. Then it needed skilled workers to coordinate unskilled volunteers in various areas such as construction and health care. While Haiti did get that, it also got a lot of unnecessary junk which now the aid organizations have to figure out what to do with.

After Hurricane Sandy pounded the US northeast in October 2012, a plea went out for the same types of things that Haiti needed. And again, the US and other nations responded. And again, relief providers received items that were not needed. In the midst of the relief efforts and clean up after Sandy, some enterprising young people saw the well-intentioned junk that was being delivered and decided to do something. Occupy Sandy knew exactly what was needed, and they knew that the US would respond if we knew what to provide. So, they created a wedding registry at Amazon.com. Yes, that’s right, a wedding registry.

The wedding registry is actually several for the various communities of New York and New Jersey. Each registry is different because the needs are different in each neighborhood. The idea is simple: a donor reviews the items in the registry, buys the items, and then Amazon ships the item to the appropriate Occupy Sandy office for them to use. The donor then gets a tax deduction and, more importantly, the knowledge that he or she provided exactly what was needed. That alone will create warm fuzzies!

There are several opportunities for churches and non-profits to take this knowledge and use it:

  • Create a registry now and advertise it to your church. This registry will be for items that are needed for mission trips and projects. Make a list, check it twice, advertise, and then thank people for their gifts.
  • Relief organizations should have a registry now. While you won’t get many people buying things before a disaster, when the disaster strikes, it will be easy to direct people to your website where you’ve already listed everything that is needed and where you can add to it as you see new needs.
  • Any number of different kinds of registries can be created for any number of needs: from schools to community organizations to camps to anything.

Be creative in what you list, but make sure that the items pertain to your work. Don’t put in items which require much explanation or might make you be defensive (those can be funded elsewhere in your budget). And do the list NOW. Don’t wait till the emergency strikes; do it now while you’ve got the time to think and get input from others.


Lead On!