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Altruism is something to be encouraged and celebrated

Caleb Hendrich
Caleb Hendrich

Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines last week, wreaking hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage, killing upwards of 2,500+ people and displacing millions more. Even a week later, aid and relief efforts still have a steep upward climb ahead of them in order to help those affected by the storm and its aftermath.

Often times in the aftermath of a tragedy of this magnitude, people wonder if there is anything that they can do to help. Many people donate money, others donate food or blood or travel to the affected areas to help.


Disasters have that kind of effect on people. It brings out what I think is our species’ most redeeming quality: altruism.

The modern day has introduced a lot of reasons for division and a lot of reasons for us not to care about our fellow humans. Small differences over things like politics, religion, economics, class and geography have certainly contributed to this. They’ve also been reasons for us to see one another as enemies; something foreign that should be eliminated.

Natural disasters have a way of stripping all of those differences and leaving behind something that we all, at our core, can relate to. Regardless of how we feel for one another, the imminent threats of starvation, exposure and disease speaks to the primal battle for survival that is the one thing that we all have in common. Superficial differences fall away in the face of a common enemy, even if that enemy is the uncaring and unsympathetic forces of nature.

Sure, there will be the handful of detractors that will still cling to those superficial differences (I am vividly reminded of Pat Robertson claiming that the nation of Haiti was reaping divine punishment for a past pact with the Devil), but they by and large represent a very small minority.

The fact that people do help others in need, even when they are in a country that is on the other side of the world, is remarkable and should be encouraged. I think that if someone wants to travel to a place like the Philippines to bring aid and relief they should absolutely do that.

There are issues related to this, as with everything else, but they are issues that can be worked around. Untrained individuals can be trained prior to departure. Problems with communication can be ironed out. And, logistical problems can be resolved.

What is important is that people want to help, and that isn’t something that should be disregarded. If they want to help, let them, because were we in the same scenario we would certainly appreciate the help.

People wanted to help in the aftermath of the Moor, Okla., tornado. People wanted to help after Haiti was destroyed by an earthquake. People wanted to help after the tsunami struck Japan. They want to help the people of the Philippines.

We should let them.


So if you want to give aid, there are a lot of ways in which you can do that.

Money is certainly something that you can give, and as one of the most wealthy nations on the planet, we in America are in a prime position to give a lot of it. There is a small army of nonprofit multinational organizations on the ground in the Philippines, and they’re they vanguard of the relief effort. Because they, by definition, don’t generate a profit, they rely on donations to bring food, provide medicine and shelter victims. The Red Cross is a good organization to donate to, as is Doctors without Borders.

Food and blood are also good things to donate if you want to make a slightly more direct impact.

Travelling overseas does make the most direct impact if you are willing to make the trek to the affected area. If you have necessary skills like medicine or construction and have the time and/or inclination to go abroad you definitely should.

If you want more information on what you can do to help, you should go to the website of the Red Cross, UNICEF or Doctors Without Borders.

Editorial Editor Caleb Hendrich is a senior political science and journalism double major. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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