Donations to help Puerto Ricans in wake of hurricane left to rot

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I know that the loss of control inherent in just giving money instead of in kind donations can be somewhat disconcerting and irritating, but JUST GIVE MONEY. Having volunteers sorting through mountains of stuff that may or may not be what is most needed and was bought at retail prices is an INCREDIBLY inefficient use of resources. Do the research to find a charity that you trust, and then TRUST them. Trust them to know what is needed and to procure and distribute it. Keep in mind that in a disaster that process is not very efficient, but it is going be be even worse if you donate stuff that has to be sorted and shipped from wherever you are.

Just like your picky niece, disasters are hard to shop for (she wanted teal, not aqua. they need water purifiers rather than shipments of bottled water) and you do not know enough to do it. Just give cash, it always fits.


This. The flood of unwanted supplies from canned food drives and community collections is often referred to as “The second disaster”. Dont use disasters as an excuse to finally get rid of that expired can of pumpkin pie mix. Send the cash!


What do you imagine money is going to do in Puerto Rico? What can you buy with it when there are few stores and no way to get to them? Can you eat money? Can you roof your house with it?

FEMA can spend your money much more efficiently than you can. Even if the stores are stripped bare by “looters of color” (/s), there may be other stores in other places.

It’s not clear in this case whether the abandoned supplies were a hodgepodge from church food drives or a well-coordinated and balanced purchase, but the story is bad either way. That said, water does not rot.

@simonize I wasn’t even thinking of the obvious advantage of buying wholesale!


I imagine that the people that run actual charities that specialize in disaster recovery can buy goods and services at bulk prices (rather than after retail markup) and use their expertise to choose those goods with an experienced eye towards both the greatest need and the deliver ability of those supplies. As used in my example above shipping in water purifiers makes more sense than shipping in bottled water. A ton of water purification equipment can purify many, many tons of water. Having volunteers clearing roads is better than having them sort physical donations and renting a warehouse for them to do so.


The idea is that an aid organization will buy what is needed, at wholesale, more efficiently than ten thousand random do-gooders each sending along something they n might come in handy.

I don’t know whether the shipping containers contained organized aid or random donations. If the former, it reminds me of warlords in nations whose civil society has collapsed burning humanitarian aid shipments in order to keep the populace in line. If the latter, it may be a case of, “let’s find somewhere to get this stuff out of the way until we figure out a place to dump it.”

Believe me, the canned goods, toilet paper, water purification rigs, diapers, whatever, that are in big lots, organized, and already palleted so you can forklift them around in whatever you’re using for a warehouse are going to get priority over random donations in shopping bags!

Random donations of goods fall under the general category of, “Something must be done! This is something.”


“They’re just going to buy liquor and drugs if I give them money.” — mainland conservatives


Apparently the standard (albeit pessimistic) assumption is that bottled water has a shelf life of ~2 years, because it is neither packaged or purified for long term storage.

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In the context of disaster relief that has no relevance.

People’s assumption is that expiry dates are about safety when mostly they are about the product’s quality. Water’s shelf life is about aesthetic quality, not if it is safe to drink. Expired water is safe to drink if it was safe to drink when bottled.

Think about it. The primary factor in foodstuffs turning bad is bacteria. There maybe some bacteria in the bottle, but in order for the water to turn dangerous to drink the bacteria need energy to multiply (or possibly to make toxins). There is no chemical energy for them in the bottle. The bacteria can’t eat water and they can’t eat the plastic so they can’t multiply. So the water can’t turn bad because of bacteria.

What does happens when a water bottle ages is that the plastics can leach to the water. This affects taste and could be possibly unhealthy if you mostly drank expired bottled water. As an anecdote abou taste, I have drank a decade old water bottle and can say that it tasted a little plasticky, but was fine to drink otherwise.

Another thing that could theoretically happen is that algae could grow if originally in the bottle and then the bottle was stored in sunlight, but I don’t think this ever a problem in practice, especially since it is unwise to store bottled water in the sun (because of UV degradation).


Wait, what?


Giving money also helps rebuild the retail and distribution merchant infrastructure.

“Heckuva job, Brownie!”

Dare I say some cabinet-level promotions are in order?

Sorry, misplaced sarcasm.

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