Floods: What charities and volunteers are doing

From the major operations of large charities such as the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance, to the spontaneous involvement of friends and neighbours, the work of charities and volunteers has been a significant part of the response to the flooding. The exceptional weather has brought untold misery and major disruption to the lives of hundreds of thousands across Britain and it is natural that many of us are asking what we can do to help.

How you can support the flood relief operation

1. Offer your help now

A new website has been set up specifically to help connect people offering help with those needing support. However, you should be aware that there is a constantly changing situation on the ground and the kind of support needed in each area will vary so don’t be disheartened if your support isn’t needed right now.

Do-It have a number of ideas for ways to offer your help in the near future, including looking out for organised clean-up events, some of which are already being planned.

You can also volunteer your time fundraising for a charity that is helping people in the floods, perhaps by organising a collection at work or by taking part in a fundraising event.

2. Donate

Volunteering is of immense value but that doesn’t mean there is no cost involved. Training and insuring volunteers to help in emergency situations is a significant expense. There are also the costs of equipment, vehicles, supplies and so on – as well as expert staff to prepare and coordinate a major response. An event on this scale requires a major financial outlay for even the biggest charities. They will need our help with these costs in order to keep doing this work. Whether you give to an emergency response organisation or a smaller group that has been involved, please remember to use gift aid to make your money go further.

The UK Community Foundations and its members are coordinating responses by seven community foundations as well as a national fundraising campaign. Endorsed by the Charity Commission, they are already giving out grants – including for other major charities, and working with National Flood Forum to provide practical advice to those affected. They are also partnering with Crowdfunder.co.uk and Enterprise Nation to support small businesses affected by the floods and storms.

The Asda Foundation is offering support. People needing help should contact their local store and ask to speak to the Community Life Champion or tweet the Foundation.

3. Learn skills for the future

Emergency response organisations are relying on their trained and experienced volunteers in most of their flood work. Charities such as the Red Cross and St John Ambulance recruit and train volunteers all year round so they are ready to provide a quick response in situations such as this. Getting involved now means you will be skilled and prepared for the next time an emergency hits.

You can find out about how to get involved as a volunteer with the British Red Cross or St John Ambulance on their websites.

If you are interested in finding volunteering opportunities in your local area to help in future, finding your local Volunteer Centre online is a good place to start. Many centres also have their own websites or are in the yellow pages.

Tell us about your experience

It is scarce comfort to those afflicted by the flooding now, but it nevertheless bears mentioning that positive endeavours often flower from shared hardships such as this. We can have good reason to hope that communities which come together to cope with flooding will be bound more closely together in the future, with all the positive possibilities we know that creates. In the meantime, please do share with us your experiences of supporting those affected by the floods.

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Justin was executive director of volunteering and development at NCVO and chief executive of Volunteering England. He is now a senior research fellow at City University Cass Business School’s Centre for Charity Effectiveness.

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