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Site Seer: Help others in need, and help yourself

March 27, 1997
Web posted at: 9:45 p.m. EST

From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman

In this story:

(CNN) -- In many parts of the world, floodwaters mark the change in seasons, and victims need a helping hand. Although financial aid is always appreciated, there's often no substitute for the human touch.

In Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, thousands of victims of the deadly Ohio River flooding are still washing away dangerous, bacteria-laden mud. Meteorologists are predicting flooding in the Dakotas that could be the worst in 100 years.

And that's just in the United States. Elsewhere, people also fall victim to natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes. They clean their homes and reconstruct roads -- as they try to rebuild their lives.

While you're trying to decide whether you should send a check to the Red Cross, consider that it also takes elbow grease to rebuild, and people with many skills can help.

Do you want to get more involved?

Send money or donate time

Red Cross

Contacting the American Red Cross is a good first step, especially this month -- Red Cross month. Thousands of people depend on the organization to recover from disasters.

If checkbook assistance is the most practical option for you, the Red Cross site has a secure online donation form that lets you contribute via check or credit card.

While the organization welcomes donations, 90 percent of its staff are volunteers. If you want to help but don't know how, the Red Cross will train you.

All you have to do is contact your local Red Cross office. The national Web site will even tell you where it is via its special search engine, if you just type in your zip code. (A server push will send you from the search results to your the office's Web page if one exists.)

International effort also strong

UN Volunteers

If you have unique skills and are interested in traveling to underdeveloped, sometimes dangerous regions, the United Nations Volunteers may have a job for you, sometimes in a country consistently beset with disasters.

The organization has more than 2,000 volunteers, some of whom have been recognized for their work in population education. The program pays for your travel to an assignment and provides a modest living allowance.

Other volunteers are working to preserve traditional crafts in Uzbekistan, rebuild Bosnia-Herzegovina, help small businesses start up in Namibia and give job training to disabled people, many of whom were crippled 20 years ago by the fighting in Zimbabwe.

Sound interesting? It's easy to determine whether you have skills the United Nations Volunteers need by checking the site's Recruitment section. Organizations that cooperate with the United Nations Volunteers are located on every continent except South America.

Peace Corps

In the United States, that cooperating organization is the Peace Corps, a government agency with a sharp Web site.

The group, which requires a two-year commitment, has more volunteers than the United Nations Volunteers; it requires applicants to have less professional experience, and it accepts younger applicants, as young as 18 opposed to 25.

If you're not sure you're ready to make a lengthy time commitment, the Peace Corps gives you decide. To give you a notion of what culture clash really means, there's even a special section of essays from Peace Corps volunteers.

Some volunteer for the fun of it

Single Volunteers

Sometimes, helping prepare for a disaster that hasn't happened is just as useful as helping deal with an ongoing one. The Single Volunteers Web site shows how turning volunteering into a social activity can draw people who wouldn't normally get involved.

Single Volunteers was founded last year by a Vermont woman who wanted another way to meet new people. Her group assists various community organizations. The group has grown to 250 members (they're now split up into smaller groups, sorted by age) and has spawned at least two spin-off groups, including one in Texas and one in Ohio.

Single Volunteers' Vermont chapter uses its extremely spare site to publicize upcoming activities. The Ohio chapter has a more elaborate design and more detailed plans. You may find its background information more detailed and useful if you're thinking of starting a Single Volunteers group in your city.


Related sites:

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window

Do you thirst for more chances to share your time? The following organizations don't focus on disaster relief, but they're always looking for volunteers.

External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


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