Mediaplanet: How can the average person help in a disaster?

Sienna Miller: Begin by educating yourself about crises occurring in the world — whether it’s in Syria, Iraq or West Africa. Follow relief organizations on Facebook and Twitter and support them by posting to your own social media about the work they’re doing. You can also text MED to 80888 make a $10 donation. With all of the troubling events in the news, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but you can do something about it. Be a first responder and stand with those working on the front lines of war and disaster in the most challenging places on earth.

 MP: Why are first responders important?

SM: When disaster strikes, first responders must deploy rapidly and raise money to continue their efforts over the long-term. These courageous men and women – and our support of them – are critical, because in an emergency it is essential to have the resources to respond immediately and effectively. That takes huge preparation in advance, and preparation requires awareness and inevitably costs money. What I have worked to do is to gather friends from the entertainment community to show their support as first responders by lending their names and spreading the word about International Medical Corps’ lifesaving efforts.

"Being a first responder has irrevocably changed me and how I look at the world."

MP: What made you want to become a first responder for the International Medical Corps?

SM: I first heard about International Medical Corps five years ago through their work in eastern Congo and met with them to learn more. I remember how straightforward they appeared, how practical and human they were in the face of such gargantuan and seemingly unsolvable problems. I began to understand what was required for crisis zones to begin to make progress; to recover and rebuild. I saw the way in which donations translated into work, provisions and development that made a tangible difference. I also learned that with 90 cents of every dollar going directly to International Medical Corps’ programs on the ground, a difference was being made with an unparalleled efficiency. I then had the privilege to visit the extraordinary country of Congo and work among its people. The fact that 96 percent of International Medical Corps’ field staff are native to the countries in which they work means that the organization's relief is sustainable and culturally appropriate. Most importantly, it means that knowledge and tools are being passed along to ultimately help communities care for themselves.

MP: How has being a first responder shaped your character?

SM: Being a first responder has irrevocably changed me and how I look at the world. As a mother, I have an even deeper appreciation now for how difficult it is for so many women to make sure their families are safe and healthy. We take for granted that we have access to the very best medical care. Most of the world does not have that.

MP: What do you wish people knew about first responders?

SM: First Responders are people like you and me, who, faced with extraordinary circumstances, step up and help those in their community who are in greatest need. They are doctors and nurses, on the front lines of a war zone. But they are also mothers, educating themselves about the best ways to ensure the health and safety of their children.

MP: What advice can you give to people who want to give back to their local communities?

SM: Find what you are passionate about, do your research, and then find out what ways you can help. What special assistance can you provide to help make someone else’s life better? Maybe it’s donating, maybe it’s rallying your friends, coworkers or your employer to join you in supporting a cause. Feeling helpless does not have to mean being helpless.