Travel Tips

Volunteer Vacations: Disaster Assistance in Haiti, Chile & China

Locations in this article:  Los Angeles, CA Miami, FL Paris, France

The earthquake that decimated Haiti early this year was only the first of several disastrous quakes. Earthquakes have also ravaged Chile and China in the past few months.

If you want to know how you can aid the Haitian, Chilean and Chinese recovery efforts, this list is for you.

Learn about the various NGOs, charitable organizations and volunteer groups helping around the world–and how you can join them.

Chile Volunteer Resources

Family Care Foundation
The Family Care Foundation has partnered with FEDES, a Chilean project that focuses on education and development in Santiago, Chile. As project partners Family Care Foundation and FEDES traveled to the region of Maule and have continued relief efforts in response to the Chile earthquake.

Heart to Heart
The Harbor at Valparaiso, Chile before the quakeHeart to Heart is looking for medical professionals such as licensed physicians and nurses who are interested in volunteering to be first responders in Chile. This organization offers a variety of volunteer avenues both in the United States and abroad. To get started, fill out their on-line form, and select how often you want to volunteer and your availability.

Kinship Circle Animal Disaster Aid Network
Kinship Circle Animal Disaster Aid Network is comprised of trained responders in both the U.S. and Canada. Animal Advocacy volunteers works to research disaster aid, fund-raising and publicity among other things. Animal Disaster Aid is currently working with Socorro Animal Chile to send teams and conduct animal rescue in response to the Chilean earthquake.

Read our initial report on the Chile quake here: Chilean Earthquake Sparks Minor Tsunami, But Major Damage

Chilean flagOperation USA
Operation USA is sending medical aid to Chile and asking for bulk corporate donations of health care materials, which it will ship to the region from its base in the Port of Los Angeles.

Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization
The Pan American Health Organization is coordinating health care efforts in Chile. The organization is fighting against outbreaks of influenza and other acute respiratory diseases in Chile because of poor sanitation conditions.

Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is providing vital assistance to coastal communities damaged by tsunamis. Salvation Army officers and volunteers have been working in these coastal communities to provide food, water and clothes, helping to clear and clean properties that are still standing. They are also seeking funding to replace lost boats.

Read more about the disaster here: Chilean Earthquake Aftershocks Rattle New President’s Inauguration.

Save the Children
Caring teacher and studentWhile the fall term has officially begun, classes in the quake zone have been suspended as many schools are damaged. Save the Children, in coordination with local authorities and organizations, is helping to establish child-friendly spaces in Chile and is working to help children return to school.

The Center for International Disaster Information
With suggestions from how to get involved through fund-raising, to volunteering abroad, the CIDI provides helpful guidelines for disaster relief volunteering. Americans are asked to donate cash as an alternative to in-kind donations such as clothing and canned goods.

China Relief Organizations

Sad Buddha Statue - Tibet, ChinaAmeriCares’ volunteer teams on the ground are fighting high altitudes and freezing temperatures to bring aid to the rural villages affected by the quake. The organization is also assisting recovery efforts by delivering, building and equipping two state-of-the-art field hospitals.

The Amity Foundation
An independent Chinese voluntary organization created in 1985, The Amity Foundation was one of the first relief organizations on the ground after the quake. The Foundations is focusing relief efforts in Longbao Township. The organization has delivered emergency relief to nearly 4,000 thousand people in Cuoduo, Cuimei and Cuosang villages. Americans can donate directly or through Amity’s partners Church World Service and United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Direct Relief
Direct Relief is teaming up with its partners in Tibet and China to supply medical materials. They will also directly help One Heart and the Amitabha Foundation, mother and child health organizations based in Tibet.

Check out our news story on the quake: China Earthquake Smashes Qinghai Province Near Tibet.

Machik is an organization that educates children and creates new work opportunities in Tibetan communities. They have mobilized their resources to help bring relief to earthquake victims. You can read their appeal for aid or donate directly.

Chinese girls in ShenzhenMercy Corps
Mercy Corps has provided much needed personal hygiene items and other daily necessities to surviving families whose lives are on hold in the temporary emergency camps. They have also started a long-term China Earthquake Fund.

The Tibetan Village Project
The Tibetan Village Project is on the ground doing relief work with other aid agencies and volunteers. The organization is asking for funds to buy medical supplies, tents, blankets, food, and water for earthquake victims.

Learn more about locals with The Portraits of Photojournalist Alison Wright.

Chinese buildingUNICEF is sending school tents, school supply kits and generators, as well as warm clothing and blankets to students in the affected areas. The agency is also joining hands with China’s National Working Committee on Children and Women to establish ‘child-friendly spaces’ where young survivors of the earthquake can receive psycho-social support in a protective environment.

World Vision
World Vision is sending a team to determine the damage and aid needed in Qinghai. With a donation you can help provide like food, water purification tablets, storage containers, cooking supplies, shelter, blankets and hygiene products to children and families in the area.

Thinking of visiting? Don’t miss our China Travel section.

Haiti Relief Groups

Haitian flagAction Against Hunger
ACF teams on the ground are carrying out rapid evaluations across the city. A team has been mobilized to arrive with an initial planeload of emergency stocks from its staging grounds in Paris to supplement efforts on the ground.

ActionAid has been working in Haiti since 1996 and is deploying an emergency team to deliver clean water, shelter and goods like blankets and soap.

Air Serve International
Air Serve International is coordinating and assisting with small aircraft and crews for immediate deployment in support of the Haiti earthquake response. Charter flights to/from Haiti for people and supplies, dedicated aircraft for short-term or open-ended in-country use.

Airline Ambassadors
Airline Ambassadors is looking for doctors, nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists to participate in ongoing medical missions to Haiti. The NGO, where Peter sits on the board, is partnering with Project Medishare and the University of Miami to assist with relief work in Port-au-Prince and Thomonde, Haiti. You must be a member of AAI and a $500 fee includes lodging, transportation and board for one week.

American Red Cross
Red cross logoThe American Red Cross is helping meet urgent needs for survivors of the recent earthquakes in Haiti, with more than $1 million already committed in support of response efforts.

AmeriCares is mobilizing emergency disaster relief and medical aid. The organization has pledged $5 million to the people of Haiti and is working closely with in-country partners to target the most devastated regions.

American Jewish World Service
The organization is focused aiding populations in the crisis zone that have not already been targeted for large-scale relief, such as poor and rural areas outside Port-au-Prince.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Provides vaccines, bandages, food and other supplies for the livestock, dogs, companion animals and native wildlife negatively impacted by the earthquake.

Learn more: Haitian Schools Re-Open & Haiti Relief Efforts Update.

Contributions will support immediate emergency operations including getting desperately needed food and water to the Haitian people.

Former President George W.  BushClinton Bush Haiti Fund
An organization led by former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton focused on immediate needs of shelter, water, food and first-aid supplies, as well as the long-term rebuilding of Haiti.

Direct Relief International
Text “GIVE10” to 20222 to donate $10 to Direct Relief. The organization is focused on providing medical assistance and aid to victims of the disaster.

Doctors Without Borders
Doctors Without Borders an international medical humanitarian organization working in more than 60 countries to assist people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe.

Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity has been at work in Haiti for 26 years and will use its local expertise and mobile resources as part of the rebuilding efforts.

Learn more with Haiti News, Links & Resources.

Humane Society International
Humane Society International has offered to send veterinary experts to vaccinate, treat injuries and rescue animals affected by the disaster.

Just a Drop
Many of the people in hospitals in Haiti are suffering from the effects of consuming dirty water. Just a Drop is an organization devoted to supplying clean and safe water for villages and communities in Haiti.

Haitian schools reopenMeds & Food for Kids
This organization is focused on the long-term development of Haiti. Donations will go to immediate relief and long-term development to help feed and care for malnourished children in Haiti.

Mercy Corps: Haiti Earthquake Fund
Mercy Corps is focusing on securing clean water and proper sanitation for survivors in two communities, creating jobs for residents and easing post-quake trauma in children.

Oxfam America
Oxfam is focusing on providing clean water, shelter and sanitation, as well as projects like building latrines and clearing rubble.

Partners in Health
With its partner organization, Zanmi Lasante, Partners in Heath has worked in Haiti for nearly 25 years. Donations will help provide health care to those victims of the earthquake.

The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army’s mission is to provide food, shelter, clothing and spiritual comfort during disasters. To donate money, go to or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY. Make sure you designate the donation for “Haiti Earthquake.”

Save the Children
Save the Children has identified these areas of immediate priority: addressing shelter, health, water, sanitation, and child protection needs and, as conditions allow, the restoration of education for children.

United Way International
Gifts to the Fund support long-term recovery efforts to rebuild lives and infrastructure devastated by disaster and to address educational, financial and health-related challenges.

World Vision
Sponsor a child in Haiti and provide them with meals, blankets, and other supplies.

By Adriana Padilla and Jessica Kate Soberman.

Find more information in our Volunteer Vacations section.

And check out more opportunities on our Voluntourism page.