According to DoSomething.org, during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (also referred to as the BP oil spill), more than 200 million gallons of crude oil seeped into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days across 16,000 miles of coastline. The initial oilrig explosion killed 11 and injured 17 people. BP must pay upwards of $40 billion in fines and cleanup costs with another $16 billion under the Clean Water Act.
But in the midst of tragedy, more than 30,000 people rallied to help collect oil, clean up beaches, restore the community and assist sick animals. Who are the volunteers and organizations behind the scenes when environmental disaster strikes? Here's a look at some of the organizations working diligently to restore our communities in times of adversity.
Founded by Clara Barton in 1881, the American Red Cross helps those in need in the U.S. and internationally through other Red Cross networks. The organization primarily focuses on people affected by disasters throughout the U.S., support for military and their families, blood collection, health and safety training and international relief. Their services expand to help those who suffer from anything from home fires to natural disasters, like Katrina, to environmental disasters.
During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Red Cross collaborated with federal, state and local government agencies to get support to affected communities. Specifically, the Red Cross kept an eye on the hurricane season. The dangerous conditions in conjunction with the ongoing leak threatened people's homes and raised alarms for longer evacuation periods and an increase in supplies.
With an eye on educating the public, the Red Cross works to grow its donation base and develop partnerships with both nonprofits and corporations. Together, their partnerships focuses on everything from increasing blood donations to ensuring better disaster preparedness. The Red Cross works to empower business leaders in the community to help carry on the volunteer legacy. Their "Ready When the Time Comes" program helps corporations across the country and everywhere in between engage their employees to volunteer. The program has helped more than 13,000 employees get involved and prepare for relief efforts and disaster cleanup as soon as the next day.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) helps survivors of earthquakes, famine, tornadoes, floods and hurricanes around the world. With an eye on international conflict, they also helped communities in Rwanda and Bosnia rebuild their homes and provide training and education to combat hunger and poverty.
The organization also aided the Japanese effected by the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima oil spill, in part, by supporting Horikawa Aiseien Children’s Home. The home suffered structural damage from the earthquake and the radiation in the area's atmosphere is still rating high since the nuclear disaster. UMCOR helped upgrade the children's home to provide safer conditions. Because the home also helps protect abused children, who are more likely to suffer when living long-term in emergency shelters, they also help rebuild their trust in adults and provide psychological care.
UMCOR empowers communities to mobilize and respond through a variety of classes and events. The organization helps mobilize and train volunteers across churches, conferences and neighborhoods to respond to disasters. With global health in mind, UMCOR also focuses on strategic responses to issues such as malaria and helping build self-governing health boards in various African countries. UMCOR's growth continues to flourish as they partner with both small organizations and large like the United Nations Foundation.
In 1975, a U.S. jet with 243 Vietnamese orphans crashed into a jungle near Tan Son Nhut with children burning to death and survivors in critical condition. When the U.S. Pentagon said it would not be able to deploy rescue resources for at least 10 days, paper broker Robert C. Macaluey chartered a Boeing 747 and brought the children back to California for treatment within 48 hours. After another high-profile rescue mission in Poland, AmeriCares was formed and has since sent more than $11 billion in aid to 164 countries since 1982.
That philanthropic spirit continues with AmeriCares donating time, money, resources and supplies to victims of typhoons, earthquakes, cyclones, floods, civil conflict and environmental disasters both big and small. In January 2014, a chemical spill sent Charleston, West Virginia and surrounding areas into a water crisis after a chemical leak contaminated local water supplies. More than 300,000 residents were left with no clean water for cooking or bathing, shelters were stretched to capacity and hygiene was compromised. With families in mind, AmeriCares sent Family Emergency Kits to West Virginians suffering from the chemical spill. Kits contained personal hygiene products for a family of four ranging from soap to toothpaste.
To date, AmeriCares partners with more than 200 pharmaceutical and related manufacturers that donate products to help fill upwards of 15 million prescriptions. Unlike many non-profits, AmeriCare is 100 percent privately funded through 250 corporate partners and 100,000 donors to raise upwards of $500 million. The organization looks toward an entrepreneurial ethos with a rooted understanding in health environments to strengthen partnerships.
What these organizations all have in common is their focus on passing on leadership skills to the community and empowering others to help their neighbor. One organization alone can't clean up an entire environmental disaster, but giving the community tools and training can create a lifelong legacy of aid and forward progress.
The preceding is a guest post by Susan Finch, a freelance writer with a passion for
travel deals, arts and great food. She is an eclectic writer with more than 10 years of experience contributing to guidebooks, magazines, iPhone apps, online publications and more. She can be found at BySusanFinch.com.