Societal forms of helping applies to communities as close as your own to the other side of the world. Giving help to strangers at the societal level can range from temporary aid given after a disaster to helping change the conditions that created societal problems.
International Disaster Aid
The news of a natural disaster sparks action from many individuals. They send money or goods or go to the area of need and offer a service for which they are trained and prepared to provide. This form of helping is usually short term. Helping a society get back on its feet after a tsunami, volcanic eruption, extensive fire, plague, or other disaster is a worthy cause and emotionally satisfying.
There are a number of factors to consider in offering emergency aid to far away places. First, keep in mind that disasters can destroy buildings, roadways, bridges, vehicles, phone lines, electrical lines, and general movement within communities as well as between them. This can hamper the delivery of collected goods, food, and medical supplies. Second, remember that before the disaster there were businesses and workers who supplied food, goods, and medical assistance within their communities. Be careful that your well intended aid does not replace them. Instead seek ways to help them restore their ability to meet the needs of their community. Third, in the process of being helpful materially or financially, avoid proselytizing disaster victims. This is not the time to push your own political, religious, or cultural ideals.
Government and non-governmental organizations are involved in providing relief to victims in communities affected by natural disasters such as extensive fires, hurricanes/tornados, floods/tsunamis, famines, avalanches, and volcanic eruptions. Governmental resources include US Aid, United Nations Central Emergency Relief Fund, and United Nations Foundation for Disaster Relief Communications. International non-governmental organizations (NGO) involved in disaster relief worldwide include the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Salvation Army, International Association of Emergency Managers, and a number of religious groups.
There are long standing societal problems that beg for a champion. These require a different level and kind of commitment. Ongoing societal problems run the gambit from homelessness and joblessness to lack of healthy water supply, widespread disease, poor health care, and lack of education. It includes political oppression, selling of children into slavery, or forcing them to become child brides before or right after puberty.
Learning of abuses and oppression as well as learning of pockets of hunger and homelessness pull at our heart strings and challenge us to find ways to alleviate the suffering of individuals in those communities. To be effective help givers, it is important to focus our energy on one community and one problem at a time. Begin by defining the problem not the symptoms of the problem. Next examine where does the problem occur and where does it not occur? What is different about where it occurs and where it does not occur? When does it occur and when does it not occur? What are possible causes or reasons this problem exists in selected areas? Does the community that is experiencing this societal problem lack the know how to correct it or lack the technological or financial resources? Are there political or cultural roadblocks to resolving the problem? What individuals or organizations are actively working on the problem? Are they making headway or not? If not, learn why. If so, join in. Keep in mind that what is interpreted as helpful or not helpful, will vary according to a community's cultural patterns, governmental policies and practices, and links between religious dictums and governmental laws and regulations.