Last week I didn’t do a personal blog because I was busy working on my California recall election guides, in English and Spanish (please vote “no” on the recall!). This week, I don’t want to skip a personal blog, but I also want to devote some digital space to carrying out a suggestion from a friend for places to donate “because everything is terrible right now.” So today we are starting with:
What to Do When Everything is Terrible
The west coast is on fire, the east coast is underwater, Texas effectively outlawed abortion and the Supreme Court said, “sure, I guess that’s fine.” We’re also watching Afghanistan struggle after the U.S. pulls out of a war no one asked for. Those of us lucky enough to not be in immediate danger are left with the existential dissonance of watching a lot of things collapse at once and feeling helpless about it. So I’m gathering up some places you can donate and things you can do, with a little bit of focus on groups that are local to Sacramento. I’d also like to remind everyone that it’s good to be prepared for a disaster, so I’ve included information about how we can all be ready for bad things.
West Coast Fire Relief
The fires are close to where I live but not close enough that I’m immediately impacted. I was surprised I only knew a few places off the top of my head for donations, but I was able to fill in the gaps with a little searching. Here are my suggestions:
- NorCal Resist has a fund for providing emergency support to families impacted by the fires. I donate to NorCal resist monthly. They’re always doing good, community-focused mutual aid.
- The El Dorado Community Foundation has a Caldor Fire Fund you can donate to, which goes directly towards people impacted by the fire.
- The California Fire Foundation is also providing immediate assistance to victims.
- Placer Food Bank is a good choice for making sure people can get food while they’re displaced and trying to piece their lives back together (side note: donating to your local food bank is a great anytime activity).
- If you want to help the many animals displaced in the fires you can donate to the El Dorado Community Foundation Community Relief Fund. Part of this fund will support animal services. The Sacramento SPCA has been helping El Dorado and Placer Counties with animal services so you can donate there too.
- Evacuation Teams of Amador works with emergency services to evacuate and shelter animals during a disaster.
- Project Camp is offering a day camp in Reno for kids affected by the fires and you can donate to their efforts.
- To support firefighters and their families, you can donate to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.
- HandsOn Norcal has a disaster service volunteer program for those of you want to go help in person. I’m not exactly sure what this entails since you have to make an account and sign up. If anyone has more information, let me know.
- Donate blood. This goes for most of these crises, but donating blood is something you can do for free and you get a snack. This can help people with serious injuries resulting from a disaster.
Side note: if you’re searching online for how to help, most lists include links to the Red Cross and Salvation Army. Don’t donate to them. The Salvation Army is anti-abortion and they hate the gays. The Red Cross doesn’t put your donations to good use.
East Coast Hurricane Relief
I’ve tried to include organizations that are on the ground giving people immediate aid, but I’m not familiar with the area. However, these all seem like they’re actually doing something.
- World Central Kitchen is working to keep people in New Orleans fed. You can donate or, if you’re a chef, sign up to volunteer in person.
- Americares has emergency programs to help people get medicine and clinical services during a disaster. They are currently matching donations and I’m sure they are also helping California fire victims.
- The Louisiana SPCA is accepting donations to support their disaster response and get animals to safety.
- Also for the animals, the Humane Society of the United States has an animal rescue and response team and you can donate to their emergency animal relief fund.
- Operation Blessing is coordinating volunteers in Louisiana via churches.
- The Cajun Navy is providing disaster relief. You can donate or volunteer.
- The Louisiana Bar Foundation has a fundraiser for legal aid to help displaced people with their legal needs.
Texas Reproductive Rights Support
The number one resource I recommend for this topic is the Handbook for a Post-Roe America website, which is full of resources and actions, plus reading the companion book Crow After Roe: How “Separate but Equal” Has Become the New Standard in Women’s Health and How We Can Change That. One of the most important things this book impressed on me was that there are already organizations that exist doing a lot of this work. We shouldn’t, as many people did after Trump won the 2016 election, individually start stockpiling Plan B pills. The Handbook website has a list of actions for protecting abortion access, plus a list of what to do if you’re in Texas (or anywhere, really) and preparing for an imminent abortion ban.
There are lots of abortion funds in Texas. Check the National Network of Abortion Funds page, where you can view organizations by state. Texas has a whole bunch and the site has info about each plus links for donating or joining their mailing lists.
If, like me, you have a credit card that accrues airline miles, you can see about donating the points to a Texas abortion fund. I think this is especially effective if it’s an airline headquartered in Texas. My main rewards program is with Southwest Airlines. Unfortunately, Southwest has a very short list of approved charities that members can donate points to. I emailed customer service and told them I want to donate to a Texas abortion fund. I’m not expecting much response but I’m trying.
Another thing we can do is Americans’ favorite strategy—vote with our dollars. There’s been a call on social media to boycott Texas by not spending money at companies headquartered there. While many corporations spoke up about voting rights in the last year, few have commented on this abortion ban. Even so, comments are not enough. Corporations that stay in Texas, a state where women are now in imminent danger, are tacitly supporting this law. The Lincoln Project put together a list of some of the largest companies headquartered in Texas for convenient boycotting purposes, this includes Southwest airlines, as previously mentioned. There’s AT&T, Exxon Mobil and USAA which, according to VoteSmart‘s financial info, were all big contributors to Texas state senators (and thus the worst offenders here in my opinion). If you are a regular customer of any of these companies and you choose to boycott, please write them to tell them why you’re not shopping. I know it feels like it doesn’t make a difference, but it will if enough people do.
A lot of Afghan refugees are coming to Sacramento, so there are a lot of opportunities to help. First, it’s worth noting that the California Department of Social Services offers a Refugee Resettlement Program, so there are government services available for refugees in California. Next, since Sacramento is a big destination for refugees, the Mayor’s office has helpfully compiled a list of how you can help, thus saving me the trouble of figuring it out. There are opportunities to donate and to volunteer. The Sacramento Interfaith Council also has a list of ways to help, with some overlap from the Mayor’s list. Finally, there are some resources on the site for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Sacramento Valley chapter here.
- For some local actions, NorCal Resist is selling tamales to raise funds to pay for Humanitarian Parole applications (the process for granting refugee status), which costs $575 per applicant. Norcal Resist also has a Humanitarian Parole training coming up on September 9 (short notice if you found out through my blog, I know). This will help you learn how to help Afghan refugees fill out the applications.
- If you really want to go hard on supporting refugees, you can apply to host an Afghan refugee through the Refugee Enrichment and Development Association.
- If you’re looking to support Afghan women specifically, you can check out Protect Afghan Women, which lists some actions Americans can take like signing a petition and calling Congress. Bustle has an explanation of why Afghan women are at risk and a list where you can donate. Another, less specific option, is the Women’s Refugee Commission, which is an organization I donate to regularly.
- To keep up with Afghan issues, you can follow Afghan Diaspora for Equality and Progress on instagram.
One more note on Afghanistan: Arabic is not the language Afghans speak. Yes, most Muslims understand Arabic so they can read the Qur’an. However, Afghanistan’s official languages are Dari and Pashto (yes, they use the same alphabet as Arabic, but so do English and German and we don’t expect English speakers to know German). So if you’re trying to help Afghan refugees, those are the languages you need.
In the pre-covid times, I started working on an emergency kit. I felt a little crazy doing it not the least due to my Mormon upbringing and their intense focus on food storage for the end of the world/return of Jesus. However, things have changed a lot and I think we can all understand why it’s important to be ready for disaster. Here are a few guides:
- Ready.gov explains some essentials you should have ready and how to plan for a disaster
- The best emergency preparedness supplies via Wirecutter. I love this guide because it’s stressful enough thinking about being ready for an emergency and then on top of that I’ve got to figure out what the best radio or water storage container is? Wirecutter has done the work for us.
- Emergency pet evacuation pack via Insructables. It makes me feel so much less anxious to know that I’m also ready to take care of my kitties in a disaster. I’ve found this guide very helpful. Something that also eases my mind is leaving the cat carriers out in the house. The cats like to hang out in there. If we did have to leave on short notice, I know where the carriers are and the cats won’t freak out if they have to go inside.
- The Climate Resilience Project on Instagram also has a good list of how to prepare for wildfires from a little bit different perspective. There’s advice on community, getting disaster alert apps set up, plus tips for a “go” bag.
Another way to be ready for a disaster is to have the things you normally use or eat on hand, just keep a little extra supply, if you can afford it and have the space (not everyone does, I know). Remember in the very beginning of the pandemic when we were all afraid to go to the store and we just made do with what we had for two or three weeks between trips? Being ready for that kind of scenario is disaster preparedness. In my house, have some “emergency” foods like Cup Noodles or just-add-water soup mixes. These are good for us because they’re things we would normally eat anyway. Sometimes no one wants to cook so we do a soup for dinner. Or we want something fast for lunch and eat a Cup Noodle. The best food to keep for a disaster is the stuff you already eat. I also try to make sure we’re never totally out of soap or other household essentials.
I talk about building emergency kits a little bit in some of my posts, which you can find under the emergency preparedness tag if you are interested.
Making Things and Doing stuff
I’m going to keep the rest of this blog short because that was a lot. I do, however, have to share this story. My Aunt Ruth recently sent me some embroidery that, apparently, my great grandma, known as Mudder Dell, had made. I didn’t know Dell, but the stories I’d heard about her involve her being pretty rowdy and I remember hearing she always carried a small gun in her handbag. So, while she didn’t seem the needlepoint type, I thought it was cool to have these and I hung them on the wall to celebrate the matriarchal tradition of fiber arts. Not long after hanging them, one of the frames fell on the floor, broke, and exposed the backside of the embroidery. MADE IN FRANCE! I wish I knew whether Dell really passed this off as her own work or if something got lost in translation. I’m planning to buy a frame to display the back of the work because it looks cool and makes for a good story.
August is finally behind us so here are my efforts for Spanish and Icelandic recorded for posterity.
I present to you this tahini brioche without further comment.
Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Fritz has gone three whole weeks without peeing on the bed and I’m proud. However, I think he only stopped because he won the war for the bed. Huey won’t get up there unless I put her there and I stay with her. Fritz spends 90 percent of his time being cute though so I guess we have to accept his behavior.