Hurricane Harvey Humanitarian Effort

Karen Harold travels to Hurricane Harvey hit areas to donate and volunteer.

I, like many of you, were shocked and dismayed at the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Atlantic coast. I felt helpless as I watched this catastrophic event create widespread destruction. Reports of this category 4 hurricane with 130 mph winds, rainfall so significant that it triggered flash flooding, and the overall damage and devastation caused me to grieve for all impacted. So… one day I decided that I needed to do something to help. It was clear that Houston was getting a great deal of attention and support, however with the help of one of my friends, I was led to two non-profits that provided direct relief to rural areas of Texas.

Below are my blogs from each day with photos and video. I had limited Internet access, so I couldn’t upload right away, but below you’ll find my thoughts for each day. I really wished I could have stayed longer because there are so many in crisis not only along the Atlantic Coast, but in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and so many more.

I say this regularly – “give a little; get a lot”. I hope that in some small way I was able to make a difference with others. This is my goal and desire every day. I hope to challenge and inspire you to do the same.

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But first, a few details

Day 1: Wednesday 27th 2018

For the past month, C3 has been collecting donations up and down the California coast in preparation for a Hurricane Harvey relief trip. After eagerly awaiting my deployment date I can’t believe it’s finally here!

I’m so excited to be here with my friends Latisha and Gina. They are strong and capable women and have so much to offer. I had originally decided to take this trip alone, but as I shared my plans, Latisha insisted that she and her friend, colleague, and supervisor from PG&E, Gina, join us! Imagine how relieved and grateful I felt that they would take time off work to assist me in this effort. Every time I think of their excitement and willingness to help my eyes well up with tears.

 


As we board the plane I soon begin to realize that my eagerness is slowly developing into anxiety as I reflect on the sadness, despair, and destruction we might witness. I was also hopeful that we could really make a difference in our short time there.

Hours later we’re in Houston and it’s becoming real. Our friendly shuttle driver gives us insight on the impact of Harvey’s pass through the area. We learn that many of the hotels in Houston are booked to capacity due to the high need of short term housing. When we arrive at our hotel we settle in and retire early in preparations for an early wake-up. As I drift asleep I can’t help but think about all the people affected by this tragedy. I just hope we can make a difference in our time here, I’m determined to.


If you would like to donate or volunteer; visit https://www.samaritanspurse.org and https://www.victoriadiocese.org/donate-hurricane-relief
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Day 2

Good morning Texas! It’s day 2 of our Hurricane Harvey Humanitarian Relief Effort and we have a lot to do today.

As previously mentioned, C3 has been asking our community to donate needed supplies all month to help with the relief effort and we had an amazing response especially from so many PG&E employees thanks to the support of Latisha and Gina. My friend, Rae, was instrumental in providing detailed information regarding the Diocese of Victoria.  She picked me up from the hotel to take me to get the rental car.  After stopping at the store and purchasing carts full of supplies such as cleaning supplies, bedding and linens, non-perishable food, medicines, and personal hygiene products, we were ready to drive to Wharton. As we arrived at the drop off location, we were greeted by RoseAnna and Father Bob Knippenberg of Holy Family Catholic Church which is part of the Diocese of Victoria.

Father Bob and the other parishioners were warm, welcoming, gracious, and thankful. Father Bob and RoseAnna spoke about the aftermath of Harvey and my heart broke listening to the stories. While thankful for the help offered by many, he expressed the common feeling of abandonment described by many of the locals who live in the rural areas outside of Houston. He also reminded us that problems facing Texans affected by Harvey are compounded by the challenges of everyday life. After we unloaded the donations, we were given a tour of their facility, learned how their organization serves their community, and met so many wonderful people. We also learned that many community members in this heavily effected area have done whatever they can to support each other. For example, a son of one parishioners drove to the local elder care facility and helped rescue wheel-chair bound patients who were stuck in water as high as their chests. A woman adopted 19 pets that were displaced by the storm, and another gentleman rounded up wandering cattle after the storm knocked down barrier fences. With a little help, he was able to guide all of the cattle into one yard and later the owners although thankful, had a long day of sifting through cows to determine which was theirs. After our visit, we were happy to leave Father Bob with much needed supplies and he left us with even more determination and resolve to transition to our next volunteer opportunity. After hugs all around, RoseAnna blessed us with a cookbook of great homemade recipes. I personally love to cook but Latisha might need a little help : )

Next, we got back on the road to head east towards Santa Fe.

I want to take this time to thank people who donated to the Diocese of Victoria and a special thanks to Rocklin PG&E team members for their donations drive as well. This wouldn’t have happened without Latisha and Gina’s support.

 

Before we checked in for our assignment with Samaritan’s Purse, we decided to visit Galveston. We walked in the sand along the ocean while talking and laughing. We each also took a moment of quiet introspection as we watched and listened to the waves. I can’t help but reflect on the beauty and power of the ocean. As amazing as it is, Harvey has reminded me that water is a powerful force to be respected. We checked into the housing site for Samaritan’s Purse and got settled. Excited and anxious we said our goodnights and closed our eyes. A new day awaits.

If you would like to donate or volunteer; visit https://www.samaritanspurse.org and https://www.victoriadiocese.org/donate-hurricane-relief
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Day 3

Time to get down and dirty! We got up early (well… early for me because I’m not a morning person) and met with the team lead to learn our assignments.  Upon our arrived at the first work site we met with the kind woman who needed our help and support. After speaking with her and viewing her property, we all realize how much work needs to be done.

Notice our work boots? That means it’s time to start ripping out dry wall, strip the glue, removing nails, and clean-up for contamination control and mold source removal.

When the boots come out, it’s time to work!

I was astounded to learn that the homeowner had only moved into her home 3 weeks prior to Harvey hitting! She had not even finished unpacking. What a shock. Despite her obvious stressful situation, she appeared to have such resolve, that we felt encouraged to do all we could for her.

She represented the reason the volunteers were there. We wanted to do the most good as soon as possible and remind people that during their time of need there are people willing to take the time, provide emotional and physical support, and let them know they are not alone.

The strong scent of mold stretches far from the house as we approach, and it triggers the lesson we received earlier in the day about mold. Apparently, mold can’t just be bleached away every time. After mold sits for a while it can grow 2-4 feet up a wall requiring complete removal of the affected areas.

Our team, partnered with the homeowner, worked diligently on the demo.  Everyone was amazing, encouraging, and supportive.  I admit that at times I was saddened to watch the homeowner because at times she looked a little lost and in shock, but she never hesitated to express her gratitude to all of us. I felt touched by her words.

If you would like to donate or volunteer; visit https://www.samaritanspurse.org and https://www.victoriadiocese.org/donate-hurricane-relief

 

Day 4

Even though we were tired and sore, there was a level of renewed energy to get back to work! As I watched everyone on their designated tasks, I just felt honored and blessed to be side by side with people from across the states. Non-profit organizations like Samaritan’s Purse depend on the volunteers to help provide services and support to those affected by natural disasters. Funding usually comes from grants and donations, and the costs of travel, administration, food and so many other factors aren’t covered. That’s why people ask for sponsorship to help an areas that are already economically disadvantaged. For example, people who live in the flood zone may find it difficult to help others while they are struggling themselves. That’s why the generosity of volunteers who travel to the area is so meaningful and important.

I know some who may not feel comfortable in sponsoring a volunteer, but there are expenses and many nonprofit organizations are underfunded, understaffed, and overworked. They depend on the hands-on support that volunteers can provide and all understand that we are meant to be an asset, not a drain. We are grateful to you who understood this and assisted us in making this humanitarian relief project happen.

This experience was exhausting, fun, and rewarding. These steps were taken with an open mind and open heart which deepened our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

If you would like to donate or volunteer; visit https://www.samaritanspurse.org and https://www.victoriadiocese.org/donate-hurricane-relief

Day 5

Finally we are homeward bound. We said our good byes with hugs and prayers for traveling safety as we made our way back to Houston. Because of our fatigue, we all moved a bit slower, but on the drive back to Houston, we shared about the impact this journey had on us. I admit that I was emotional. I cried, I grieved, and I processed everything that transpired on the previous days.  Ultimately, I felt extremely grateful. Grateful that we were able to make a difference. Grateful for the love and support given by family, friends, and colleagues. Grateful that I didn’t have to take this journey alone, because I had Latisha and Gina to share it with me…and grateful that I have the ability to share this experience with you.  Thank you for being part of this.

If you are interested in joining me in any volunteer opportunities in the future, email us at c3team@conflictcoachingco.com.

Peace and Blessings,

Karen

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We want to give a special thank to our friends at Rocklin PG&E for their support and donations!
Together we are Peacemakers.