In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, one of our assistant Scoutmasters suggested our troop collect bottled water for victims and survivors. Wanting to do something–anything–to help, the troop set up a collection point and we collected several van loads of water to ship to New York.
Did I mention that our troop is in Kentucky? Or that water is very heavy? (As the old saying goes, “A pint’s a pound the world around.”) Or that New York didn’t even need our water?
I remembered that project this week as I reflected on the disaster Houston is facing in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Scouts all over the country naturally want to do something to help. As adult leaders, we have the opportunity to both help hurricane victims and teach our Scouts the right and wrong ways to be of service.
This week, the United Methodist Church reposted a great article on what to do–and what not to do–to help after a natural disaster. I encourage you to read it and share it with your patrol leaders’ council, but the bottom line is simple: don’t go without an invitation (and training) and don’t send supplies that haven’t been requested.
The best thing to do is probably to donate to a reputable charity, something recommended by experts in a recent NPR story. I love the United Methodist Committee on Relief because 100 percent of donations go directly to provide services; overhead is handled through separate fundraising. Another good option is the BSA Emergency Assistance Fund, which helps rebuild Scouting in affected areas.
Scouts can also get involved in assembling relief supply kits, a project that can help them feel like they’re doing more than just spending money they collect from adults.
And one more suggestion: Use this disaster as an opportunity to talk about preparedness in your own community. While you may be immune from hurricanes, you’re only one tornado, fire, earthquake, chemical spill, or ice storm away from being featured on CNN.
Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.