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How to Help After a Natural Disaster

How to Help After a Natural Disaster: Keep Traveling

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It certainly seems like 2017 has brought one natural disaster after another. There were the hurricanes in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Florida and Texas. Then came the earthquakes in Mexico and now the fires in Northern California’s famed wine country. It’s all enough to make a person want to pull the covers up overhead and wish that 2018 gets here quickly, bringing happier times with it. That would be a way too easy and unproductive way out, though.

And what kind of message would it send our children if we all did that? I know mine were devastated to learn what happened in Puerto Rico, a destination we visited just last April. We met so many warm and kind-hearted people there and enjoyed such amazing experiences.

My kids also worried about the famous six-toed cats they encountered at the Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West a few years before that, and they voiced concerns about the gator farm they thought was so cool when we visited the area around Key Largo on that same trip.

Helping my kids cope with disaster got even more complicated when it hit close to home with the Wine Country fires. I grew up in Napa. Many of the places that were evacuated and burned in Napa and Sonoma Counties were familiar landmarks of my childhood, as well as theirs, as we’ve enjoyed and explored them together. The Schulz Campus in Santa Rosa, the town of Calistoga, and the Petrified Forest were among the many places threatened. Among those lost, my childhood home, the home where my parents still lived, burned to the ground in the Atlas Fire.

Nothing prepares you to survey the wreckage of a house where you spent your formative years and not recognize anything. So yes, I know how easy it would be to throw your hands in the air and declare, “That’s it! I’m out!” However, surrendering to tragedy will not help in managing the anxiety or sadness that comes with it. While it’s natural to mourn what has been lost, it’s also an opportunity to support areas in need and let something beautiful be born from the disaster.

If you’re ready to take action, here are some tangible things you can do to help right now.

3 Ways to Help After a Natural Disaster

1. Travel to these locations

Book a trip to Florida, go to the Wine Country, and visit the Caribbean. Just be aware of debris and recovery efforts that could be going on so that you can be sure to stay out of the way.

Parts of the Florida Keys are already welcoming back visitors, and business owners in Wine Country have already put out the word that the best way to help with recovery is to spend your tourism dollars in the area.

Cancelling your plans hurts the area and the people who live there. My sister, who also lost her home in the fires, was laid off from her job at a winery shortly afterwards because tourism is down. So please go and enjoy! Just be sure to call ahead and do your research so you’re fully aware of the current situation in the destination of your choice.

2. Buy the products these areas produce

Drink wine. That’s right, I want you to go to your local retailer whether that be a grocery, liquor store or wine shop and buy a few bottles (or cases) from the Napa and Sonoma Wine Country, particularly from one of the wineries that were damaged if you can.

Not a drinker? That’s ok! There are specialty mustards, jams, and all sorts of other items from this region. Please buy and enjoy them!

3. Volunteer and donate

Consider becoming an American Red Cross Volunteer. Purchase items from the Friends of Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief list on AmazonAdopt a Family in the U.S. Virgin Islands and get your kids involved in constructing a care package for them. Give to Northern California Fire Relief.

These are only a few of many ways to get involved. I know it seems overwhelming and that you may feel like one small being fighting a sea of anxiety while waiting for the other shoe to drop. Doing nothing will only feed that. Doing something, though, gives us humanity and strengthens all of us.

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How to Help After a Natural Disaster

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Kristine lives in Mountain View, California, where she is the mother of a gifted girl athlete and a special needs charmer. Like almost everything in her house,…

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