Cover Story > Cover Story Sidebar

Aid and comfort

Issue: "Tsunami," Jan. 15, 2005

American now lead the way in delivering aid to the tsunami victims of the Southeast Asia. That means American donors may also be the most likely to fall victim to disaster-relief scams.

In the wake of tragedy, wellmeaning givers often "react emotionally instead of taking a step back and asking themselves, 'How can I help the most?'" said Rusty Leonard, head of the charity watchdog Wall Watchers.

On its website (, Wall Watchers warns would-be donors to steer clear of highly emotional fundraising appeals.

We see you’ve been enjoying the content on our exclusive member website. Ready to get unlimited access to all of WORLD’s member content?
Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.
(Don’t worry. It only takes a sec—and you don’t have to give us payment information right now.)

Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.

The tsunamis' unprecedented death toll, as well as the grinding, televised suffering of millions of victims makes that difficult, but "think through your decision and do not act by impulse," the group counsels.

Donors should beware of telephone solicitations (sham groups often swindle by phone, using names that closely mimic those of reputable charities), ask for tax-deductible receipts, send checks instead of cash, and send money only to direct-aid groups-not to those that take their own bite from relief money before redistributing it to other charities.

It's not only swindlers who can knock the wind from disaster-relief sails:

"There's sometimes a greater risk from well-meaning folks than from scams," Mr. Leonard said. "People who have supported a ministry in Sri Lanka, for example, may have heard of the great need there and try to do something on their own," such as gathering and sending blankets, food, or other material donations. "The gathering part may be easy," he said. "It's the actual distribution that's difficult in a situation like this." Do-gooders would do better to send donations - better yet, money - to established international relief groups that have distribution infrastructure in place, who speak the languages, and know the local customs, Mr. Leonard said: "That's the most effective way to help right now."

At the same time, longtime local relief and ministry groups with existing networks and good reputations are in position to move aid quickly. For that reason, WORLD includes several local groups among the following list of organizations.
Campus Crusade for Christ
Tidal Wave Relief
100 Lake Hart Dr.
Dept. 4200
Orlando, FL 32832
Childcare Int'l
715 W. Orchard Dr., Suite 7
Bellingham, WA 98225
Christian Aid Ministries
P.O. Box 9037
Charlottesville, VA 22906
Compassion Int'l
Colorado Springs, CO 80997
Food for the Hungry
1224 E. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85034-1102
Gospel for Asia
1800 Golden Trail Ct.
Carrollton, TX 75010
Hindustan Bible Inst.
P.O. Box 584
Forest, VA 24551
Interchurch Medical Assistance
P.O. Box 429
New Windsor, MD 21776
International Aid
17011 W. Hickory
Spring Lake, MI 49456
International Mission Board (Southern Baptist)
Asia Earthquake Disaster Relief
P.O. Box 6767
Richmond, VA 23230
Jubilee Campaign
(supporting aid work for the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka)
9689-C Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22031
Kids for the Kingdom
P.O. Box 85
Graton, CA 95444
Phone 1-800-214-2005
MAP Int'l
P.O. Box 215000
Brunswick, GA 31521-5000
Mission of Mercy
P.O. Box 62600
Colorado Springs, CO 80962
Mission to the World (PCA)
P.O. Box 116284
Atlanta, GA 30368-6284
Northwest Medical Teams
P.O. Box 10
Portland, OR 97207-0010
Operation Blessing Int'l
977 Centerville Turnpike
Virginia Beach, VA 23463
10123 William Carey Drive
Orlando, FL 32832
Salvation Army
615 Slaters Lane
P.O. Box 269
Alexandria, VA 22313
Phone temporarily disconnected
Samaritan's Purse
P.O. Box 3000
Boone, NC 28607
Shelter for Life
P.O. Box 1306
Oshkosh, WI 54903-1306
Water Missions Int'l
"Challenge Grant"
P.O. Box 31258
Charleston, SC 29417
World Emergency Relief
P.O. Box 131570
Carlsbad, CA 92013
World Help
P.O. Box 501
Forest, VA 24551
World Relief
7 E. Baltimore St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
World Vision
P.O. Box 9716
Federal Way, WA 98063-9716

Lynn Vincent
Lynn Vincent

Lynn is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine and the best-selling author of 10 non-fiction books.


You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading


    Job-seeker friendly

    Southern California churches reach the unemployed through job fairs