Travel News

How You Can Help Destinations Affected by Natural Disasters & Shootings

Locations in this article:  Houston, TX Las Vegas, NV Los Angeles, CA Mexico City, Mexico

The natural disasters over the past two months and the recent shooting in Las Vegas have been catastrophic. It started in August, with Hurricane Harvey in Houston, which has left more than 30,000 people in need of shelter. In early September, Hurricane Irma hit Florida and the surrounding area, leaving over 75,000 people seeking refuge. In that time, there were not one but two devastating earthquakes in Mexico. The most recent reached a magnitude of 7.1, has claimed over 200 lives, destroyed over 44 properties, and damaged over 1,500 buildings. Then Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, leaving over 3.7 million people without power, clean water, and other basic needs. In addition to the natural disasters, on October 1 the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history claimed 58 lives in Las Vegas. There has been such devastation from each of these disasters and tragedies over the past two months, it may feel overwhelming to figure out where to donate or how to provide assistance.

Fortunately, there are reliable resources available to help guide you through where and how to help. There are many organizations that are providing assistance to numerous areas affected by these disasters.

National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster

National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) is an organization that is suggested by FEMA. NVOAD is assisting in most areas affected by Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The website makes it simple for those who would like to donate money as well as those available and willing to volunteer. If donating money is the best option for you, the page is very simple to use. Just type in which affected area you want to help.

Individuals on GoFundMe

GoFundMe is a known crowdfunding website for individuals in sudden financial need. It has been recognized as a website that has helped people with impeding medical bills to people who need funding for their education. GoFundMe has partnered with the Direct Impact Fund in order to provide financial assistance to areas recently affected by natural disasters, as well as acts of terrorism. When visiting the GoFundMe website, use the search bar to bring down a list of menu options. On the menu, there will be an option for emergencies. GoFundMe allows you to pick which category of recent disasters you would like to help with.

United Way

United Way is an organization that is set up around the world to assist communities in need. United Way has sprung into action in light of current devastation from within the United States to neighboring countries. As United Way has chapters all over the world, it is already equipped and ready to help areas that need it most. You can type in what area you would like to support on the United Way website and send your donation to the area of your choice.


UNICEF is an organization offering long-term assistance to areas in need and is also equipped to assist with emergency relief. UNICEF is specifically set up to be ready to assist during hurricane season by offering supplies and monitoring areas likely to be affected, as well as those recently affected. If you are looking to not only help areas that are recovering from recent natural disasters but want to help areas that have a high chance of being struck (e.g., the approaching Hurricane Nate), UNICEF is a good option. It is also a program highly recognized for its accountability by the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator, so you can, quite literally, follow where your money is going.

Operation USA 

Based in Los Angeles, Operation USA is an international disaster relief and development agency that helps communities in the U.S. and abroad as they overcome the effects of disasters, disease, violence, and endemic poverty. The organization is privately funded and run by a small number of staff and provides aid as crises emerge. It is currently providing aid to the areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as areas in Mexico impacted by the earthquake.

The American Red Cross

The American Red Cross is sending in supplies, water, and other necessary items to the areas that require their help, but they are in financial need. There is a specific disaster relief fund on The American Red Cross homepage, which has a menu of options for each recent disaster.

If you would like to help destinations affected by specific natural disasters or events, there are other other organizations you can help.


Hurricane Harvey may have occurred almost two months ago, but the effects of the hurricane are far from over. The damage from Hurricane Harvey has affected more than 100,000 homes, leaving many Houston residents in need of shelter, food, and clean water. The best way to help the area is by donating to local charities and food banks.

The Houston Food Bank is not only accepting monetary donations but also food donations. Food donations are accepted through community food drives, which can be found on their website. The items that are most needed are: canned green vegetables (green beans, spinach, collard greens) with no salt added, canned tomatoes with no salt added, canned beans with no salt added, canned tuna, salmon, chicken, sardines, canned fruits in water or juice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, brown rice, and salt-free seasonings. Please do not donate any homemade items. While food is helpful, monetary donations go further. Donations can be made on the website, with the choice of a one-time payment, a monthly pledge, or  many other options. Click here for more information.

The Animal Defense League of Texas has been working with Houston Pet Sit to correspond with local shelters in need of help. The Animal Defense League of Texas is taking monetary donations as well as new towels, flat sheets, enrichment pet toys, unscented baby wipes, blankets, crates, or pop-up kennels. These items can be dropped off at 11300 Nacogdoches RD. location from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Monetary and gift donations can be made by clicking here.

The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center is in need of blood donations. They have sent almost 3,000 units of blood and platelets to areas affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. This is in addition to the 750 units sent to local hospitals treating patients evacuated from coastal areas prior to Harvey and the almost 500 units sent to South Texas hospitals daily, but they are still in need. To find out where you can donate, click here.


Hurricane Irma was classified as a category five hurricane and has left over 75,000 people seeking refuge, shelter, and in need of clothes and food. While Florida suffered destruction from the hurricane, the surrounding Islands of Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, and the Virgin Islands were also impacted and need assistance.

Feeding Florida is an organization that unites 14 member food banks together to provide food for families across Florida. After Hurricane Irma, Feeding Florida has ramped up efforts to provide food, hygiene products, and other necessities. Right now, the organization is more in need of financial support through monetary donations, as this allows for bulk purchases, transportation of food, and other necessary items and support of the infrastructure. Click here to learn more and donate.

OneBlood is a local not-for-profit blood center that is in connection with blood centers across Florida to provide as much as possible during the wake of Hurricane Irma. People around the country are encouraged to donate and while all blood types are needed, there is an urgent need for platelet donations from O negative donors. Click here to learn more.

Best Friends is dedicating resources to helping the animals affected by Hurricane Irma. Best Friends has provisions in place to not only provide shelter and food to animals displaced by the hurricane, but to provide a lost and found service for families who were separated from their pets. The organization is mostly in need of monetary support, and you can donate through the website.


Hurricane Maria has pummeled Puerto Rico, leaving over 3.7 million people without power, clean water, and other basic needs. The power grid in Puerto Rico was severely damaged, leaving much of the territory without power. In addition, food and clean water has not reached many of Puerto Rico’s residents in the weeks since Hurricane Maria hit. There are ways that you can help.

Save The Children is an organization that is providing food, hygiene, and aid to children and families, working with volunteers on the ground in Puerto Rico. Click here for more information.

GoFundMe has created a specific hub for donations to Puerto Rico. This hub has already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Puerto Rico needs all of the financial support it can get. Every little bit helps. To learn more, click here.

Most important, Puerto Rico really needs supplies and volunteers. The government of Puerto Rico has provided a guide that includes what they need, how you can donate, and how to get involved. The guide can be found by clicking here.


Mexico has been devastated by two of the most powerful earthquakes in the country’s history, in less than a two-week span. The first earthquake occurred on September 7th and the second, which reached a magnitude of 7.1, was on September 19th. Over 300 lives have been lost and they have damaged or destroyed thousands of buildings. Mexico is in need of blood donations, food, clothing, and financial support. Here are some places that you can get involved with to help.

Topos Mexico is a non-profit organization that came into existence after the earthquake in 1985. The website is in Spanish, however, so use the translate button on your browser to see the site in English. According to the Topos Mexico Twitter account, they are most in need of monetary support and are accepting payment through PayPal. Click here to learn more.

Project Paz is an organization that has partnered with the El Paso Community Foundation. They are dedicated to helping Latino Children in their communities. Project Paz is based out of New York, but they have set up their website to provide a means to donate monetarily to Mexico. For more information on how to donate, click here.

Direct Relief is an organization that has its staff members stationed in Mexico City. The organization has pledged that one hundred percent of its funding goes to relief efforts, which include facilitating the delivery of medical supplies to affected areas. For more information on how to get involved or donate, click here.


On the evening of Sunday, October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire from a Mandalay Bay hotel room onto a crowd of concert goers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas Strip. A reported 58 people died and nearly 500 were injured, making this the deadliest mass shooting by an individual in the United States. The best way to assist Las Vegas and those injured from this act of terror is by donating both money and blood.

During a press conference, Mayor Carolyn Goodman urged that people donate blood. While thousands of people stood in line and donated, filling the immediate demand, blood does expire. So it is imperative to continue donating. If you do not live near Las Vegas, the United Blood Services, as well as The American Red Cross, have blood donation centers set up around the United States. Click here to find a United Blood Services donation center near you.

If donating blood is not a possibility, the next best option for Las Vegas is to donate money. On GoFundMe you can find individuals in need of donations. To see a full list of those affected and in need, click here. 


Starting on October 8, several wildfires started in Northern California and spread through Napa, Sonoma, Butte, Mendocino, and other counties. These fires have claimed 17 lives and forced over 20,000 people to evacuate. While some of these fires have been contained, many are still burning. As families are uprooted and the fires continue, relief agencies in Sonoma County, among others, have expressed that monetary donations and gift cards are the best the way to help. Here are some organizations that can be trusted with monetary donations.

GoFundMe has a specific relief page for those affected by the Northern California fires, just as they have with many other tragedies. This allows you to donate straight to the families who need finances to find, shelter, clothing and everything else lost when forced to suddenly evacuate. Click here for more information.

Community Foundation Sonoma County has set up a resilience fund for Sonoma residents. While they are accepting one-time donations, they also have the option to set up monthly payment options, as Sonoma County will require continued assistance rebuilding—even after media coverage has stopped. For both a one-time donation or to set up a monthly donation pledge, click here.

North Coast Opportunities has arranged services to assist residents of Mendocino displaced by these fires. There is a one-time or monthly donations option on the website, or, for those that prefer a person to person interaction in regards to their donation, they offer the option to visit Community First Credit Union or the Savings Bank of Mendocino Branch. Click here for more information.

United Way of the Wine Country has directed all donations to fire relief and recovery efforts at this time. On the United Way of Wine Country website, there are several options for the frequency of donations. To learn more, click here.

The Salvation Army Nor Cal Wildfire Relief is sending one hundred percent of its donations to fire relief at this time. Click here for more information.

For the moment, these are some ways you can help rebuild the damaged areas struck by tragedy in recent months. However, once they are deemed safe and ready for visitors, traveling to these areas is also important. Tourism functions as an economic driver in many of these destinations. If you’re able-bodied and have the time, consider volunteering in areas where your skills can help and make a difference. If we’re truly travelers in the best sense of the word, we should do everything we can to help.

By Kandice Martellaro for