The South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu took a direct and devastating hit from Cyclone Pam recently. According to the Australian Red Cross, the cyclone, which was likened to a Category 5 hurricane, turned virtually every building not made of concrete into a pile of timber. The Australian Red Cross has also noted that the humanitarian need on the island “will be enormous,” but help from international humanitarian NGOs was initially slow to arrive—especially with communications being down or at best, sketchy.
Weeks after the disaster, and as communications come back online, the Western Union Company, along with the Western Union Foundation, have launched a multi-pronged approach to aid disaster victims.
The Western Union Company is offering a no-fee transfer transaction program from participating Western Union Agents across Australia and New Zealand until April 30, 2015. The same program is also available during the same time to Vanuatu for money transfers sent from Australia and New Zealand. In the U.S., Western Union is offering the same no-fee program (also at participating agent locations) for consumers sending money to Vanuatu, Tuvalu, and Kiribati until April 30, 2015. Western Union is hoping that by eliminating fees, it will encourage friends and family to send money to their loved ones in need.
Western Union also offered a two-for-one match program for employee donations made to the Western Union Foundation earmarked for disaster relief efforts in Vanuatu. The company is also encouraging its individual Western Union agents to support relief efforts under the Western Union Business Partner Giving Program. In this regard, the Western Union Foundation, the charitable are of the company, will provide a one-to-one match of qualifying contributions to NGOs that are providing disaster relief support in the regions of Vanuatu impacted by Cyclone Pam.
Additionally, the Western Union Foundation, along with two Western Union agents in New Zealand pledged a $20,000 grant to the New Zealand Red Cross.
The Western Union Foundation has been quietly funding disaster response and relief efforts for some time now. In the past, the foundation has responded to major national and international disasters such as flooding in Pakistan as well as earthquakes in Chile, Haiti, and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. In the US, the foundation has provided rapid response to areas of the country devastated by tornadoes.
More recently, Western Union provided support to UNICEF for its ongoing humanitarian work with Syrian refugees.