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Helping Japan: Options for Frequent Flyers

It's easy to be overwhelmed by natural disasters of the scope and scale of Japan's recent earthquake and tsunami. What to do? When? How?

My own tendency is to obsess on NYT.com coverage and NPR updates, with a vague sense of frustration that while I'm not part of the problem, neither am I part of the solution.

And then I snap out of it and remind myself: What I can do, at a minimum, is help the helpers.

But which helpers?

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I'm sure Lady Gaga's "We Pray for Japan" wristband—all proceeds to support relief efforts in Japan—is well intentioned. I just don't know how efficiently the donated dollars will translate into real assistance, what form the aid will take, and how expeditiously it will be delivered.

The Red Cross, on the other hand, is in the business of providing on-the-ground assistance in just such circumstances as Japan faces today. And it has an established track record of doing so.

So I began by texting REDCROSS to 90999 and making a $10 donation to, according to the Red Cross website, "help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific." That was Saturday morning, and I've repeated that move several times since then.

The Red Cross isn't the only option, of course.

Charity Navigator, which evaluates and ranks non-profits, has a list of other recommended organizations that are providing relief to Japan and other affected areas in the region.

The site also has a helpful tip list for would-be donators, including "Avoid newly-formed charities and give to an established charity that has worked in Japan."

Miles for Relief

So far, the airlines have been slow to ramp up efforts to facilitate frequent flyer mileage donations specifically for Japan relief efforts—unfortunate, since in these cash-strapped times, many are in a better position to donate miles than money.

Nevertheless, many airline programs routinely allow members to donate miles to the Red Cross and other non-profits whose charters include providing international assistance to victims of earthquakes and tsunamis.

Follow the links below to see which charities are supported by your preferred airline program:

Reader Reality Check

This is an evolving situation, and I expect to see some Japan-focused airline-sponsored charitable opportunities come online over the next few days. Stay tuned.

And if you have any pertinent recommendations for others wishing to help, with cash or miles or time, please share them in the comments section below.

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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