Posts Tagged ‘disaster volunteer’

Hurricane Sandy Plus One Year—Volunteers Still Needed

SandyCoasterIt was a year ago today that the eastern shores of New York and New Jersey, as well as plenty of other wide expanses of land, were beaten mercilessly by nature when struck by Hurricane Sandy. It was the deadliest storm in the United States since Katrina in New Orleans, and cleanup and rebuilding efforts are still underway. As so often happens, our national attention evolves and moves on once we evolve from the stage of emergency into recovery, so, many who were not directly affected have not realized how much damage remains.

Weekends still find dedicated volunteers rebuilding, cleaning up, replanting, and recommitting to their neighbors. If you’re in the region, or visiting soon, the need for volunteers remains high–so jump in. A little sweat from a day’s hard work will do you good, and warm you against the late autumn chill. Here are just a few ways to find out how to be of good use in the storm recovery efforts:

Americorps (The Corporation for National and Community Service)—does tremendous work with post-disaster response and service. They can help you find a number of ways to be involved whether you can swing a hammer or not.

FEMA Corps—established by the office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this partnership with Americorps is dedicated, with the efforts of 1,600 volunteers, directly to emergency response. There is a youth focus, even providing full-time housing for service workers ages 18-24, who help grow our nation’s disaster response capacity.

NYC Service—is the volunteer portal run by New York City, helping you find a project of need in response to Sandy (or any other category of volunteering you might want to explore).

New York Cares—will get you going volunteering on Sandy projects, or others in the area.

All Hands Volunteers—has to date helped more than 300 families via the efforts of more than 2,700 volunteers totaling donated volunteer hours representing nearly a million dollars.

New York Restoration Project—focuses on the green spaces and community gardens in communities of need, re-planting trees, renewing open spaces and parks, and restoring natural areas.

Hope for New York—is a faith-based organization, mobilizing hundreds of volunteers in Sandy relief efforts.

My Trip to Haiti…and You

My apologies for being AWOL last week. I was sick as a dog. While everyone else on the East Coast (and much of America) was sweating through a heatwave, I was buried under mounds of covers with an electric blanket set on “7” and shivering because I still couldn’t get warm from a raging fever. I’m back in the saddle, but bummed I missed a bunch of blogging days.

Photo by Renee Dietrich

I leave for Haiti in less than a week (and hope to be able to blog from there, but may be inconsistent, as I’m told Internet…and electricity, are going to be inconsistent as well) and wanted to be sure folks know what I’m up to. I also wanted to create an opening for anyone who might be inspired, to support the work our little band of volunteers (myself, a 27-year-old woman from Florida, and a 45-year-old mom and her 15-year-old daughter) will be doing. Here is a link to a secure donations/fundraising page for my project (http://www.firstgiving.com/andrewmersmann). The organization is a 501(c)(3) charity, so donations are tax-deductible as charitable contributions.

My explanatory text from the First Giving web page:

The January 12, 2010 Earthquake shook the already frail country of Haiti mercilessly.  Around 230,000 deaths resulted as well as the displacement and destruction of legions of families and lives. Just over six months later, human resilience prevails as Haitians move to pick up the pieces, making a new life out of less than the little most people once had. The emergency stage is over, and now the long-term rebuilding begins. Volunteers who were not medical or engineering professionals were urged to stay away, as one in-country Doctors Without Borders physician told me “It [Haiti] is like an intensive care patient. It has healing to do before there can be visitors.”

Now there is a way for me to be useful. The hard work of locals is being supplemented by carefully curated volunteer projects. On August 15, I go to Haiti for 2 weeks to do a construction project, building a computer lab/classroom space for a school in Jacmel. (Jacmel is a town 2 1/2 hours from Port-au-Prince…70% of Jacmel’s buildings fell or were damaged, but like so many cities that are not the well known capital, they are getting far less foreign aid). Nearly every leader from within Haiti and of international aid programs and efforts agrees that education is at the top of the list of infrastructure that must be prioritized in a new Haiti. This school serves the poorest in the community who would otherwise be unable to access education, as well as the restavek population (“restavek” children are essentially modern day slaves, and this is the first outreach education to this alarmingly large population in Jacmel)

Elevate Destinations, Scopa Group, and Make a Difference Now are joining forces to support rebuilding efforts…and put me to work. I’ve paid for my trip, gotten my shots, bought my mosquito net, and am filling an extra suitcase with as many extra donated items as I can squeeze into American Airlines’ luggage rules. Now I want to ask your help, and just provide an opening for you to support the project. Money you donate will go directly toward paying the professional crews at the project (a huge consideration is that we NOT take paying jobs away from locals, but support them) and building materials. By the time we leave, the computer lab will be finished and ready to open doors, literally and figuratively/electronically, for the kids.

I hope you’ll find a way to pitch in. You’ll be in my heart and head while I’m there, it’d be cool if you were in the mortar and paint and plaster as well.

It wasn’t just rhetoric when everyone said rebuilding would take years. Join me and be a part of that. Thank you for standing by Haitians as they start anew. Please forward this to anyone who you think has been moved into solidarity and action by the tragic events of January 12th.

Thank you so much,

-Andrew

“We think that we’re not happy because of what we’re not getting, but really we’re not happy because of what we’re not giving.”
–Marianne Williamson