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The Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB) has started a three-pronged Humanist Disaster Recovery program and seeks help to expand.

Natural and human-made disasters most often occur suddenly, with little to no warning. A changing climate, growing population, and a tendency for developing in high-risk areas, we are in for more frequent and more severe disasters all around the world in the near future. While the first few days after a disaster are vital to meeting the immediate needs of survivors it is actually in the years-long recovery process that aid slows, volunteers stop coming, stress builds, and survivors feel, and often are, forgotten.

In addition to being an underserved and important cause, disaster relief is also a media rich cause for secularists to benefit from, as we try to show the world who we are as people, not stereotypes. Using a humanist worldview as a catalyst for our programs we seek to rally the free-thinking community around the world to demonstrate that we are "good without God" and care about disaster survivors.

Currently the majority of groups involved in disaster response and recovery are faith-based. While these groups provide valuable assistance to disaster survivors there is a clear and troubling lack of representation from the Humanist community. It is time for Humanists to have a role, alongside religious groups, in offering disaster aid.

The Challenge

Secular people are good at organizing. It is time to take those skills to help the survivors of natural and human-made disasters. Through our work supporting disaster survivors, we can stand up for secular values and be seen alongside the many religious groups that mobilize for disaster relief.

Foundation Beyond Belief's Humanist Disaster Recovery programs are our communities opportunity to take a seat at the disaster Recovery table. The Humanist Disaster Recovery programs seek to provide aid, in various forms, to survivors throughout the recovery process.

After a disaster, survivors are emotionally traumatized. Faith-based organizations that offer faith-based comfort can just make it worse for victims who are freethinkers. Humanist Disaster Recovery Teams Program Coordinator Rebecca Vitsmun experienced this personally after a tornado destroyed her home. She was motivated to create a humanist-based recovery program after her family was caught in the devastating Moore Oklahoma tornadoes in 2013. Asked by Wolf Blitzer on live TV whether she "thanked God" for her family's survival, Rebecca responded, "Actually, I'm an atheist." Rebecca was told by volunteers to pray and thank God for having destroyed their neighborhood and leaving them homeless. Rebecca experienced firsthand the well-meaning, but often poorly trained and insensitive treatment of disaster survivors by volunteers. She became committed to ensuring that disaster recovery volunteers from Foundation Beyond Belief would be well-trained in how to put survivors first.

Disaster survivors, regardless of their worldview deserve to see representatives of the humanist community helping. These programs not only help a good cause but it does our volunteers, donors, and our entire movement, a world of good.

The Opportunity

The Foundation Beyond Belief hosts the only specifically humanist disaster recovery program of its kind in the world. The program raises funds for secular organizations working on the ground post-disaster through Humanist Disaster Recovery Drive, sends volunteers to help survivors rebuild through Humanist Disaster Recovery Teams, and seeks to connect the free-thought community through Humanist Disaster Recovery Network to educate the public on the science of disasters and ensure timely aid to survivors from our community.

The project's mission is to contribute to a timely, appropriate, and effective recovery from disasters around the world.


This project will make a huge impact in the lives of victims, and good press for the secular movement.

Since 2012 FBB has launched Humanist Disaster Recovery Drives for Typhoon Haiyan, the Moore Oklahoma Tornado, Hurricane Sandy, the US Mexico border refugee crisis, most recently Cyclone Pam, and others. To date, we have raised $100,000+ through our HDR Drives.

Project Plan

Five staff and volunteers are committed to developing and implementing the Human Disaster Recovery Program.

The program has three components:

  1. Humanist Disaster Recovery Drive: Originally called Crisis Response, this program was launched in 2012. This program mobilizes resources for secular organizations working on the ground to directly meet the needs of disaster survivors. This year FBB has begun to transform this program by targeting beneficiaries that focus on locally lead efforts working to rebuild communities while integrating sustainable practices and mitigation into the recovery process.
  2. Humanist Disaster Recovery Teams: In June of 2013, Moore Oklahoma tornado survivor, Rebecca Vitsmun, approached FBB while searching for an organization within the atheist community to support the creation of a disaster recovery program. Since that time FBB has brought in volunteers and staff with years of professional disaster experience and formal academic training to develop and implement HDR Teams. Volunteers that sign up with go through several training courses before deploying to disaster sites to assist survivors and other secular organizations in the recovery process. The official launch of the program is planned for Summer 2015.
  3. Humanist Disaster Recovery Network: Humanist Disaster Recovery Network has two primary objectives. First, to provide effective coordination within the secular community to maximize the impact of the secular community on aiding in recovery of disaster survivors. Unlike faith-based organizations that can easily draw millions of dollars from their congregations networked all over the world, the humanist community does not have the same infrastructure in place. HDR Network's goal is to connect existing groups in the free-thought community to quickly be able to spread word of an HDR Drive. Second, FBB is also committed to promoting science education. As part of this program, Humanist Disaster Recovery launched the "Science of Disasters" blog to help educate the public on how and why disasters happen, namely that they are no "Act of God". This monthly blog-series provides an explanation of the science behind effective emergency management, specifically the role of nonprofits in aiding disaster survivors


The annual cost of the program is just $28,669 though supplementary funding would allow for additional volunteer deployments to help survivors in need.

A full budget and impact forecast is available upon request.

We seek funds, volunteers, and members for our disaster recovery programs.


Organization: Foundation Beyond Belief
Contact Name: Samantha Montano
Contact Email: hdr@foundationbeyondbelief.org