How to Become a Disaster Relief Volunteer

all hands in for helping with disaster recovery

Natural disasters strike all the time, all over the world, and can be devastating for an area or country. Becoming a disaster relief volunteer is a great way to help the affected communities rebuild and replenish quicker. There are many options for organizations and programs you can sign up with to volunteer. 

Whether you volunteer in your community, another state, or country, this article will walk you through becoming a disaster relief volunteer

1. Assess Your Capacity

How much time can you commit? What type of assistance can you provide? How far are you willing to travel? Ask yourself questions about your capacities and capabilities. Be honest. There are no right or wrong answers. 

Some factors to think about when you're considering volunteering abroad are if your vaccination status, age, health, or residential location affect where you can travel. So be sure to research any restrictions for the specific countries you're interested in. 

2. Find Organizations

Young volunteers sorting through boxes at a donation center

Find organizations that meet your preferences and ensure you're eligible for them. Read about each organization's missions and values and determine whether they are aligned with yours. 

Consider applying to an organization that's well-known in the industry. It's also helpful to read program reviews to ensure the organizations are well-regarded. In addition to popular organizations like the American Red Cross and All Hands And Hearts, there are many more programs for disaster relief volunteers.

To find additional programs, you can start by doing a simple Google search about disaster volunteer organizations or using a website like NVOAD to find volunteer opportunities and groups. NVOAD stands for National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and is an association of organizations that alleviate disaster impact in communities.

Another place to check for disaster relief opportunities abroad is Go Overseas. You can filter programs by country, project type, and time frame. 

3. Do Some More Research

Once you have an organization in mind, you'll want to research the program specifics. Know what support and resources are available to you before, during, and after the program. 

Find out if they give volunteers access to a resource hub where they can find information on what to bring, directions to placements, and an overview of a typical work day. Some volunteers may be more comfortable with receiving more support than others. 

In addition to pre-departure support, you should consider whether they offer on-site or phone support throughout the program. For example, what happens if you need medical care? Or if you need emotional support? These are important questions to ask when choosing a program. 

Another deciding factor to consider is if there are opportunities to learn new skills or complete training to maximize your volunteer experience. Try to find a list of program details, benefits, and expectations. 

4. Commit & Do Your Best

Once you feel confident about your chosen program, commit to it and prepare for your disaster volunteer experience. Volunteering in a disaster zone can push you out of your comfort zone, where the most personal growth will occur. So do your best, make the most of it, and be open to new experiences and meeting new people.  

5. Reflect on your Experience

You're going to learn a lot of new things about yourself and others. It may be helpful to keep a journal throughout the experience to write down your thoughts and things you've learned.

When you get home, consider if you'd like to become a disaster relief volunteer long-term. Check if there are opportunities to expand your reach within the same program. Or seek a new program that will allow you to develop your skills further. 

You can also become a point of contact for potential volunteers. Share your experiences with others and help them find the right program fit. 


Becoming a natural disaster relief volunteer can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Your personal growth will skyrocket, and you will truly make a difference in impacted communities. There are so many programs to choose from, each with unique opportunities. In addition to volunteering, there are other ways you can help post-disaster. Read about them here.

Tags: Recover