How Canadians Can Help

During Major Disasters and Other Emergencies Abroad

Canadians feel strongly about helping to support communities affected by natural disasters and other emergencies abroad.

The best way to help: Donate money - not clothing or food - to experienced humanitarian organizations.

Why should you donate cash instead of goods?

Because cash donations are quick, efficient and adaptable.

  • Cash donations are the fastest, most efficient way to get help to people living in a disaster zone. They allow relief agencies to purchase quickly supplies based on the specific needs of the affected population.
  • Cash donations allow relief agencies to purchase goods and services in the
    affected country or neighbouring areas. Your financial contribution in other words, is helping to
  1. get aid to affected populations as quickly as possible, and

  2. regenerate the local economy, which may have been seriously affected by the disaster.
  • In most cases, it is more cost-effective to purchase goods locally than to airlift supplies from far away, as fuel and aircraft costs can be very high. In addition local goods can be purchased in much less time than it takes to organize the logistics of an airlift from a distant country.
  • Culturally familiar goods can respond to humanitarian needs, as well as provide a small sense of comfort or normalcy to traumatized and displaced populations, which foreign, unfamiliar goods may not.

Why do governments and relief agencies discourage donations of food, clothing and other goods?

Because cash donations are more useful.

  • Relief workers on the ground can lose valuable time sorting through unmarked or inaccurately labelled boxes of privately donated goods when the necessary supplies can be purchased locally and cheaply.
  • Food, clothing and other goods may not be appropriate for the climate or the culture of the affected population. For example, survivors may need light-weight tents in the case of a hurricane in the summer, or winterized tents in the case of an earthquake in the winter.
  • If goods donated by the Canadian public are not appropriate for a given crisis, they may end up not being used, but will have been expensive to transport to the affected region.
  • In some parts of the world, items such as used clothing and blankets are subject to import regulations that call for fumigation for instance. If the goods have not been processed accordingly, they can be refused entry into the affected country, clog up air and seaports and thereby delay the processing and release of essential relief supplies. In other words, your well-intentioned goods may slow down the distribution of appropriate relief supplies in the affected country.
  • Donations of out-of-date medicine and medical supplies can do more harm than good to the health and survival of an affected population. In addition countries regulate the import of medicine; the medicines you send might be forbidden from passing through a country's customs, and money will have been wasted in transporting them from Canada.

You have already collected goods that you want to donate. What should you do with them?

Be creative: turn them into cash donations. Many Canadians have found creative ways to turn clothes, toys and other goods into cash donations. Below are just a couple of ideas that may help you:

  • Organize a community garage sale, auction or raffle and donate all the proceeds to a recognized relief agency. Any left-over goods can be donated to a local charity or shelter.
  • Use food donations to have a community potluck and have each person make a small cash donation for the food that they eat. The money can then be donated to a relief agency. If there are any non-perishable food items left over, donate them to a local soup kitchen.

You want to volunteer in the affected country. What can you do? Before volunteering your services, you should consider a few things:

  • The time when search and rescue services are needed is usually short – a period counted in hours, rather than days or weeks. A number of countries have decided to specialize in search and rescue and are closer than Canada to certain disaster-prone regions and can therefore be on the ground quickly and when it counts.
  • The need for life-saving first aid and other immediate medical assistance is usually short-lived and can be provided by health services in the affected country or from nearby countries.
  • Many agencies have their own rosters of both local and international volunteers who live near the affected area and who are able to contribute to immediate relief efforts. In a crisis, often, the people who can be most useful in the immediate term are those with relevant field experience and language skills, as they can navigate the situation more pro-actively than volunteers who do not speak the language or are unfamiliar with the area.
  • Many countries require entry visas that can sometimes take weeks to obtain. In addition specific vaccinations may be required to enter certain countries. If you have skills that can be useful in a humanitarian crisis, you could approach relief organizations in advance to register as a volunteer and to get advice from them on how to prepare yourself to leave for a disaster zone at short notice.

You are interested in helping here in Canada. What can you do?

Get involved at the local level.

  • Canadian NGOs or the local affiliates of international organizations may need assistance staffing phone lines during fundraising drives or organizing fundraising events in your community. Check their websites regularly.

You want to help beyond the relief phase. What can you do?

Stay involved for the long term.

  • Many people want to help during the initial emergency, but do not realize how much assistance and money are necessary in the longer term reconstruction - long after the crisis phase of a natural disaster. Organize fundraising events. Encourage friends and family to donate to reputable agencies involved in rebuilding an affected area. Make cash donations over the holidays when most non-governmental organizations have fundraising drives.
  • Learn more about disaster risk reduction and donate money to development projects that aim to reduce communities' vulnerability to future natural disasters.

Where may you find information about experienced humanitarian organizations?

The Government of Canada works with experienced humanitarian partners and relief agencies to deliver humanitarian assistance in affected areas. For a full list of projects profiles, per country, including executing agencies/partners with which the Government of Canada worked with in the past, please see the International Development Project Browser. For a full list of charitable organizations, please see the Canada Revenue Agency's Web site.

Adventist Development and Relief Agency Canada (ADRA)
1148 King Street E.
Oshawa, ON  L1H 1H8
Tel: 905-433-8004
Fax: 905-723-1903

Aga Khan Foundation Canada
The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat
199 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON  K1N 1K6
Tel: 613-237-2532
Fax: 613-567-2532
Toll-free : 1-800-267-2532

3720, ave du Parc, bureau 300
Montréal, QC  H2X 2J1
Tel: 514-982-6606
Fax: 514-982-6122

Canadian Catholic Organization for
Development and Peace (CCODP)
1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor
Montreal, QC  H3G 1T7
Tel: 514-257-8711
Toll-free: 1-888-234-8533

Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB)
400-280 Smith Street, P.O. Box 767
Winnipeg, MB  R3C 2L4
Tel: 204-944-1993
Fax: 204-943-2597
Toll-free: 1-800-665-0377

Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR)
1080 Kingsbury Avenue
Winnipeg, MB  R2P 1W5
Tel: 204-694-5602
Fax: 204-694-5460

Canadian Red Cross Society
International Services Department
170 Metcalfe Street, Suite 300
Ottawa, ON  K2P 1P3
Tel: 613-740-1900
Fax: 613-740-1911
Toll-free: 1-800-418-1111

Care Canada
6 Antares Drive, Unit 300, Phase 3
Ottawa, ON  K1G 4X6
Fax: 613-226-5777
Toll-free: 1-800-267-5232

Centre for International Studies and Cooperation (CECI)
3000, rue Omer-Lavallée,
Montréal, QC  H1Y 3R8
Tel: 514-875-9911
Fax: 514-875-6469

Christian Children's Fund of Canada
1200 Denison Street
Markham, ON  L3R 8G6
Phone: 905-754-1010 Ext. 610
Fax: 905-754-1002
Toll-free: 1-800-263-5437

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC)
3475 Mainway, PO Box 5070, STN LCD 1
Burlington, ON  L7R 3Y8
Tel: 905-336-2920
Fax: 905-336-8344
Toll-free: 1-800-730-3490

Confederation of Canadian Christian Schools
1 Wenden Crt., R.R.#2
Minesing, ON  L0L 1Y2
Tel: 705-728-7344
Fax: 705728-4401

Development and Peace
1425 René-Lévesque West Blvd, 3rd floor
Montreal, QC  H3G 1T7
Tel: 514-257-8711
Fax: 514-257-8497
Toll-free: 1-888-234-8533

Doctors Without Borders
402-720 Spadina Ave
Toronto, ON  M5S 2T9
Tel: 406-964-0619
Fax: 406-963-8707
Toll-free: 1-800-982-7903

20 Claireport Cres. Unit 9
Etobicoke, ON  M9W 6P6
Tel: 416-916-0522
Fax: 416-916-0522

Handicap International
1819 René-Lévesque West Blvd. Office 401
Montréal, QC  H3H 2P5
Tel: 514-908-2813
Fax: 514-937-6685

International Development and Relief Foundation
1063 McNicoll Avenue
Toronto, ON  M1W 3W6
Tel: 406-497-0818
Toll-free: 1-866-497-4373(IDRF)

Médecins du Monde
338, rue Sherbrooke Est
Montréal, QC  H2X 1E6
Tel: 514-281-8998
Fax: 514-281-3011
Toll-free: 1-877-896-8998

Mennonite Central Committee
134 Plaza Drive
Winnipeg, MB  R3T 5K9
Tel: 204-261-6381
Fax: 204-269-9875

Mission Aviation Fellowship of Canada
264 Woodlawn Rd. W.
Guelph, ON  N1H 1B6
Tel: 519-821-3914
Fax: 519-823-1650
Toll-free: 1-877-351-9344

39 McArthur Avenue
Ottawa, ON  K1L 8L7
Tel: 613-237-5236
Fax: 613-237-0524
Tol-free: 1-800-466-9326

200-2330 Notre-Dame W.
Montreal, QC  H3J 2Y2
Tel: 514-937-1614
Fax: 514-937-9452

Plan International Canada
95 St. Clair Avenue West, Suite 1001
Toronto, ON  M4V 3B5
Tel: 416-920-1654
Fax: 416-920-9942
Toll-free: 1-800-387-1418

Presbyterian World Service & Development
50 Wynford Drive,
Toronto, ON  M3C 1J7
Tel: 416-441-1111
Fax: 416-441-2825
Toll-free: 1-800-619-7301

The Primates World Relief and Development Fund
80 Hayden Street
Toronto, ON  M4Y 3G2
Tel: 416-924-9192
Fax: 416-924-3483 
Toll-free: 1-866-308-7973

Rose Charities
1870 Ogden Ave,
Vancouver, BC  V6J 1A1
Tel: 604-733-0442
Fax: 810-582-0595

Salvation Army Canada
2 Overlea Boulevard
Toronto, ON  M4H 1P4
Tel: 416-425-2111

Samaritan’s Purse Canada
20 Hopewell Way NE
Calgary, AB  T3J 5H5
Tel: 403-250-6565
Fax: 403-250-6567
Toll-free: 1-800-663-6500

Save the Children Canada
4141 Yonge Street, Suite 300
Toronto, ON  M2P 2A8
Tel: 416-221-5501
Fax: 416-221-8214
Toll-free: 1-800-668-5036

The Sharing Way - Canadian Baptist Ministries
7185 Millcreek Dr
Mississauga, ON  L5N 5R4
Tel: 905-821-3533
Fax: 905-826-3441

The United Church of Canada
3250 Bloor St. West, Suite 300
Toronto, ON  M8X 2Y4
Tel: 416-231-5931
Voice Mail: 416-231-7680
Fax: 416-231-3103
Toll-free: 1-800-268-3781

2200 Yonge St., 11th floor
Toronto, ON  M4S 2C6
Tel: 416-482-4444
Fax: 416-482-8035

World Vision Canada
1 World Drive,
Mississauga, ON  L5T 2Y4
Tel: 905-565-6100
Fax: 905-696-2162
Toll-free: 1-800 268 5863