Hurricane Harvey is wreaking unprecedented havoc throughout the Gulf of Texas in what must feel like a never ending onslaught of rains and flooding. Like most of you, my heart breaks at the photos and news reports coming in from the most affected areas. These things appeal to the deepest parts of our human nature as we think “those poor people” and wonder how we can provide them help.
Many people are lucky enough to say that disaster, natural or otherwise, is something the experience only through a lens. The detritus of broken lives is delivered to them through they’re televisions, newspapers, smart phones, and computer screens. I am not one of those people, although I was at one time. In October of 2012 I was one of “those poor people” after Superstorm Sandy swept through my home leaving complete destruction and despair in her path. I stood by, helpless despite years of emergency response and management training, as my life and lives of my loved ones seemingly imploded. I was that person on the news (literally) telling their story and choking back tears as I scraped up bits and pieces of the life I had worked so hard building. I had to come to a realization, while handing out supplies to storm victims from the makeshift distribution center in the firehouse, that I, too, was a victim. I needed these items and this help just as much as the people I was helping, and that thought left a stinging scar on my heart.
Instead of allowing myself to focus on my own troubles, I attempted to focus on helping lift my neighbors from their own worries. That was easier for me, and in so many ways it was healing experience in itself. I handed out dry socks and shoes with a hug, I sorted and delivered diapers while sharing tears, I spent weeks preparing meals on a charcoal grill and camping stove to share a warm meal and a smile with whomever wandered in that night. I would wake with the sun to deal with my own devastation and spend my afternoons providing community relief. As it always has, my community leaned on itself, neighbor helping neighbor without a second thought. We also relied heavily on the kindness of strangers. Donations poured in from every direction in the form of food, clothes, manpower, money, and support. This proved to be invaluable as the forms of relief we are taught to expect never truly materialized. It was well over a week before an American Red Cross truck could be spotted in South Queens, the Salvation Army never appeared at all, and FEMA determined it unsafe to setup a base of operations until full power had been restored to the area, which took over a month.
I could write an entire post, multiple articles, maybe even a book, on how these organizations are mismanaged and ineffective. I can do it with a first hand perspective of how that affects those they are intended to help, but that isn’t my goal today. Today I want to tell you about 2 amazing organizations (one of which is located in Texas) that swiftly came to the aide of my community and the surrounding areas in our greatest time of need. I want to share this with you because perhaps you, like me, want to donate to disaster relief; you want to help these unfortunate hurricane victims but want to ensure your donations are truly doing that.
- Tzu Chi USA
The English language lacks the words necessary to convey how amazing this organization is. They are true missionaries for service to others. Within days of the storm they arrived with hot food, eco-friendly blankets and scarves, and money. By simply showing them a photo ID that showed your address in a storm affected area you were presented with a $600 Visa gift card to help you in any way you most needed it. They are currently collecting donations and sending aide to the gulf and I can promise you that your donation to this organization will NOT be wasted. Aide will be given directly to those who need it most, which is hard to find these days.
You can donate to Tzu Chi’s Harvey Relief Fund or Volunteer by clicking on the links.
- Rapid Hope Disaster Relief
These saints with a Texas drawl showed up with a truck jam packed with supplies as well as a kitchen on wheels and stayed for a little over 2 weeks. They provided us with 3 hot, home cooked, delicious meals every single day. They had water, blankets, cleaning supplies, and dry socks aplenty. More than anything though, they provided a the type of kindness and compassion that makes your heart burst open and tears fill your eyes as your faith in humanity is restored. They fed you and filled your ear with chatter and conversation like old friends attempting to distract you from all the heaviness so you could enjoy your meal with a smile. Despite the horrible time during which they arrived, I genuinely miss this clan.
You can donate to them here.
I am also including a link to an article that outlines a number of Texas based resources such as SPCA’s, shelters, Diaper Banks, and food banks to name a few. When lending a hand to our fellow man, it’s important to make sure that they can reach it. All of the organizations I am linking you too help to bridge the gap.