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Lessons Learned From Restoring Communities After Disaster

Posted on February 01, 2021 by The Patterson Foundation
From hurricanes and earthquakes to pandemics and humanitarian crises, disasters are inescapable and constant. Since there is no way to fully prevent a disaster from happening, The Patterson Foundation works diligently with partners to strengthen communities after challenging circumstances and better prepare people for future catastrophes. To that end, The Patterson Foundation contributes its resources and expertise to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) to serve communities worldwide.

Since 2010, CDP has taken a multi-tiered approach to handling disasters.
  • Immediately following challenging events, donors often feel an emotional impulse to give but don't know how to best utilize their resources. CDP educates donors on making a lasting impact and helping those in need before, during, and after a disaster.
  • CDP's grantmaking encompasses a long-term, holistic approach to aiding communities and vulnerable individuals.
  • CDP consults with corporations and philanthropic foundations to align with disaster-giving strategies.
Nancy Beers has learned many lessons in her six years with CDP. These five points gleaned during her time as director of CDP's Midwest Early Recovery Fund can help strengthen philanthropy's response to disasters in ways that minimize suffering and maximize recovery for people and communities that endure them.

  1. Leadership matters. Good local leadership is the difference between a successful recovery or one that divides a community and leaves its community in "recovery turmoil." Let me be clear: There is no substitute for local. CDP cannot provide that, but we can elevate and support local leaders and provide them with the tools and support they need to be successful.

  2. It's not about you but the people we are called to serve. Why do we compete with each other? To what end? Isn't there enough need that we do not need to worry about what other agencies/groups are doing? Pray for them to be successful and move on. We need all-hands-on-deck. We need to encourage others to participate, not discourage them because they may have a different approach than you or your organization.

  3. Be a blessing, not a burden. How many times have I gone to a community and there are people there who truly want to help, but want to do "what they do" instead of asking the community what they need. Ask, listen and respond by filling a need identified by the community.

  4. Peddle hope. Hope is what is so often missing in a community when recovery workers show up. Everyone thought things would be better by now. Hope matters. Hope is a choice. Hope can be learned. Hope can be shared with others. We need to be peddlers of hope!

  5. Dreamers vs. Doers. I read once there are two kinds of people in the world: "dreamers and doers. But what the world really needs is dreamers that 'do.'" In a world full of subject matter experts, what we really need is more workers in the field, more feet on the ground, more people engaged in meeting needs, listening to the challenges, and partnering with others to solve complex problems.

Nancy's lessons are an inspiration for individuals and organizations aspiring to increase their impact on communities coping with disaster across the world. While contributions of time and resources are vital to any relief effort, incorporating innovative thinking and hope for a stronger tomorrow can fuel long-term recovery that creates more resilient communities — an asset for the next time disaster strikes.

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