How you can help the victims of tragedies

Posted June 22

The United States saw its deadliest mass shooting last week when a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. As the rate of national tragedies like this becomes more and more common, so does the amount of assistance needed to help the victims and their families.

Advocates are urging people to remember the victims, and not the gunman in the shooting’s aftermath, and numerous organizations are asking people to contribute what they can to help those victims. Whether you’re geographically near to or far from a tragedy, here’s a few ways you can help:

Donate blood

When tragedy strikes, blood loss is almost inevitable. After Sunday’s shooting in Orlando, CBS News reported there was an “urgent need” for blood in the area.

While many blood centers in the Orlando area reported being filled to capacity — people waited up to seven hours to donate on Sunday — they asked donors to return in the coming days.

"As quickly as it is donated it is processed, tested and shipped out the door," Susan Forbes, vice president of OneBlood, told CBS News after the shooting.

There are limitations for who may donate blood set by the FDA that could result in possible donors being turned away. Those interested should read through the FDA’s recommendations prior to visiting a donation center.

Find a list of local blood donation centers by visiting the American Red Cross website.

Donate money

One of the easiest ways to help those affected by tragedy is to donate money. Donors can give any amount they see fit quickly and easily thanks to the internet and mobile technology.

In regard to Orlando, donors can visit the American Red Cross website to donate, or give to one of numerous crowdfunding efforts, which have become prevalent in the past few years for allowing donors to give what they can along with a short message.

Equality Florida’s GoFundMe page seeking to raise money for victims of the Orlando shooting has currently raised more than $2 million, with donations from nearly 50,000 people.

To avoid scams, financial expert Dave Ramsey recommends doing a few things before donating to a crowdfunded campaign:

  • Research the creator of the campaign.
  • Ask yourself whether the campaign seems realistic.
  • Don’t let emotion get the better of you.
  • Do your research and make sure you’re comfortable before clicking “send” on your donation.
Donors can also check the reliability of organizations through websites like Guidestar and Charity Navigator.


Texting and calling people has long served as an easy way to get ahold of those affected by disasters, but the advent of social media is making it even easier. Social media is not only improving the means of keeping in touch with loved ones, but is also becoming invaluable in times of crisis.

Facebook unveiled its own check-in feature in 2010, which garnered the world's attention in 2015 during the Paris attacks. It has since been used in times of crisis around the world, but debuted the feature in the U.S. for the first time on Sunday.

The tool uses the mobile device’s GPS capability to determine if someone is near a dangerous situation and asks them to check in if they're safe. It also alerts users of how many of their friends are located in that area and which have checked in.

Social media users can also use hashtags and geolocation tags to alert others about their condition.

Offer shelter or transportation

Good Samaritans in Paris let victims of the November 2015 attacks know they had shelter for the night by tweeting #PorteOuverte — or, #OpenDoor — with their address. Similarly, those stranded in the states used the hashtag #StrandedinUS as a way to find shelter while awaiting a return flight home.

Air BnB, a property rental site, waived fees for those affected in Paris as well.

New Orleans city also offered homes and beds to those affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to NBC News.

Empower victims

In instances of tragedy, foreign or domestic, victims “want to find a way to look forward,” according to a 2009 report by the United Nations. While the report generally focused on providing victims with federal support, i.e. health care and legal status, some proposals were as simple as reaching out to victims to offer support and solidarity.

“I do remember days when I had lost hope," said Henry Kessy, a victim of a 1998 bombing in the United Republic of Tanzania. “But then I was visited by people from so many nations who came with humanitarian assistance to our country. Their solidarity gave us hope and we knew we were not alone.”

Find out how to reach out by contacting nonprofits and organizations working with the victims.

Email:; Twitter: @sarapweber


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