There are three sides to this dilemma:
- make a monetary donation to a big reputable charity,
- send a virtual message of support, or
- make something and send it on to the victims via some large organization.
If you make a monetary donation through a large reputable group you know your money will be put to good economic use. Sending a quart of milk to a disaster area is way more expensive that have a large group buying gallons of milk to be distributed through proven distribution channels. Yes, there have been charity scams but, in general, your money makes it to people who can efficiently use it. I have given money for many charitable uses and I have received items from large charities. Both have done the job of giving aid but feel/felt very impersonal.
The second option of sending messages of support in a virtual way is slightly more personal but, in many cases your efforts are integrated into a much larger project. I love the 100,000 cranes project (see here for more info) and so far have made seven myself. So I will make my cranes, send them on and much money will be donated to Japan relief and the cranes will be incorporated into some large installation. Yes, it can be fun to anonymously contribute a large project but the personal touch is missing.
The third option appeals to me on a much more basic level. I can make something and have it delivered into deserving hands. When I cleared out the house of spare blankets, pillows and quilts for Katrina victims at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston and later saw them in use when I volunteered there I was moved beyond belief that something form my hands went to someone in need. For Japan relief, I will be sending quilts to Mission of Love for their distribution (more here). They may not be my best work but they should bring someone comfort. I am now looking for a group to take knitted items and, if I can't find a reputable group to take them, then I will seek out individuals to receive these items.
So I'll write a check, fold some cranes and send some handmade items.
I may feel better but I know it will never be enough to comfort those who have lost their friends, family and homes during this disaster.
I so hope that it will be a quiet hurricane season for those of us on the Texas Gulf Coast.