How to help after international disasters: Award-winning student designs explain why 'Cash is Best'

Posted: May 22, 2024 | Word Count: 475

It can be heartbreaking to watch news of international disasters, especially when you feel powerless to help. Your immediate impulse might be to send food, water, medicine or other material goods but the truth is, transporting these goods overseas can create a second disaster. While well-intentioned, donating material goods can hinder relief efforts by creating logistical challenges and potentially overwhelming local infrastructure. Aid organizations working on the ground managing the relief efforts know what is most needed and can often purchase items regionally, contributing to the local economy. For this reason, donating cash of any amount to trusted organizations is the most effective way to support international disaster relief efforts and make a meaningful impact on the lives of those affected by devastating events.

To get the word out about the many reasons why "Cash is Best," the U.S. Agency for International Development Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI) and Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance conducts a nationwide contest inviting college students to design public service announcements.

USAID is proud to announce this year's PSAid contest winners:

1st: Cash is Best, Izie Figueroa, Arizona State University
2nd: Cash is Fast, Emyli Hinojosa Rafael, Arizona State University
3rd: Why is Cash Best?, Hyelim (Amy) Song, Arizona State University

Static Image:
1st: Send Cash!, EL Mikkelsen, Arizona State University (featured image)
2nd: Unblocking Relief Efforts, Emma Klarin, Arizona State University
3rd: Change is Magic, Sydnee Reed, Arizona State University

1st: Global Chat, Natalie Clark, Arizona State University
2nd: No Matter the Disaster, Alula Valdivia, Arizona State University
3rd: Quick and in Quantity, Gabe Pante, Arizona State University

The winning PSAs will be used in CIDI's "Cash is Best" outreach efforts to help raise awareness about the importance of donating money to support international disaster relief efforts. Previous winning PSAs reached over one billion people in more than 150 media markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta. Winning broadcast PSAs have appeared on streaming services such as Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Prime. Winning static PSAs and GIFs have been featured in Forbes, Rolling Stone, The Boston Herald and The Arizona Republic.

"Throughout this experience, I learned how valuable cash is in international disasters," said Sydnee Reed of Arizona State University, third-place winner in the static image category. "I hope people see this and understand that needs are different in every situation, and the best way to make a change is to donate something that is universally valued."

A panel of experts from the fields of humanitarian assistance, communications and design served as volunteer judges: Oktay Dogramaci, former vice president of PayPal Giving, CTO and co-founder of MissionFish; Hillary Hoffower, editor and writer; Jeff Odom, director of digital marketing for IndyCar; producer Gretel Truong; and Marcia Wong, deputy assistant to the administrator for USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

See all the winning entries and learn more at

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