Natural disasters commonly remain within the scope of news coverage only shortly after they occur. Sometimes, only weeks later, there tends to be a tremendous amount of negligence by not only the media, but by those uninvested and unaffected by such events. Hurricane Harvey is exemplary of this unexcusable lack of effort and initiative.
Over the week of spring break, myself, as well as a group of 11 Muhlenberg students and two faculty members, traveled to Houston, Texas to help alleviate the damages caused by the hurricane. We volunteered with various organizations including the Saint Bernard Project, Houston Food Bank, Undies for Everyone and Sewa International, all non-profits who have been working fervently to ease the suffering the Houstonians have faced. What prompted us to invest our spring breaks in Houston was most prevalently through seeing the photos of the displaced families who were unsure of what would come next. As we proactively utilized our time in Houston the overarching purpose of the trip evolved; our collective efforts would not be over upon returning to Muhlenberg. We realized that our responsibility after experiencing post-Harvey Houston was to bring awareness back to the Muhlenberg community. We would do this by sharing stories of not only our personal experiences, but of the resilient Houstonians in hopes of inspiring others to take initiative.
One of the days on our trip we volunteered with the St. Bernard Project whose mission is to “shrink the time between disaster and recovery.” While volunteering with this organization we worked on repairing the home of Ms. Shirley Green. Ms. Green is an elderly, legally blind woman who has been living in her home on Pardee Street for over thirty-five years. Her husband, Mr. Foster, had passed away in 2016, which left her living alone at the time of Hurricane Harvey. Back in 2002, Mr. Foster suffered his first stroke, leaving him unable to work, and thus the couple was unable to afford flood insurance. On top of that, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied Ms. Green assistance. This is why organizations like the St. Bernard Project (SBP) become involved. The SBP essentially gathers volunteers from all across the country to work on mucking and gutting, mold remediation, and eventually, rebuilding. These organizations are the main source of relief for people like Ms. Green who want to return to the familiarity and comfort of their own homes. The SBP realizes that the quicker these homes are rebuilt, the sooner individuals and families who have faced such catastrophes can begin rebuilding their lives.
While Ms. Green has expe- rienced tremendous emotional pain and suffering, she stills re- mains hopeful. Like Ms. Green, the Houston community has remained resilient. Much of this resiliency is maintained through the generosity and unity of people who want to make a difference. However more people are needed in this generosity. Ms. Green’s story is reflective of the many struggles people who have survived natural disasters are facing and wouldn’t be able to resolve as quickly, effectively, and financially accessible without the help of organizations like the St. Bernard Project. Since Harvey, roughly 180,000 volunteers from all across the world have invested themselves in the SBP’s continuous and collective effort. Without these volunteers’ assistance and willingness to help, along with generous donations made to this effort, fellow humans like Ms. Green wouldn’t otherwise receive the immediate aid needed. While there is much resiliency in Houston much more must be done.
Therefore, I ask you, the Muhlenberg community to give your time, dedication and willingness to this worthy issue of the suffering people population feeling hopeless This investment is worth it because it makes suffering communities hopeful. This call to action would allow suffering individuals to feel a sense of comfort and familiarity once the damages are alleviated. To make the most of this investment, start by doing something small.
The damages will not go away shortly. However, they can go away through your continu- ous effort and dedication. This should not be seen as a favor to those who participated on this trip, rather we are asking you make the most out of this in- vestment because it will make the lives of the suffering better.
To help Ms. Green, as well as the hundreds of thousands of people affected by Hurricane Harvey, including those who have faced other natural disasters, no action is too small. If I’ve learned one lesson from my experiences in Houston, it’s that all it takes is one person to make a difference. There’s still a tremendous amount of room for improvement, and I ask you to invest your time and money in aiding individuals like Ms. Green who have suffered tremendous losses. Your effort can in turn cause a chain reaction, creating a ripple effect of universal aid.