Natural disasters are often overlooked by those who were not directly affected by it. We may hear them on the media for a few weeks; but eventually, our media refocuses on more current events. The short attention span of our social/news media nowadays does not nearly make up for the families’ recovery time of over a decade.
This summer, I got the opportunity take a pause on my own life in Philadelphia, go down to Houston with my Youth Volunteer Corps/Repair the World family, and work with the St. Bernard Project to help repair houses for homeowners who are still currently recovering from Hurricane Harvey that hit nearly a year ago.
There were ten of us, eight youth volunteers, our Repair the World fellow Becca, and our program director Greg. Together, we were able to help the repair effort at two houses: The Cardenas’s and Kim Ocain’s. In the span of three days, we managed to cover the Cardenas’s floor entirely with wood planks and helped the progress of covering the floor with tiles at Kim Ocain’s house. During our lunch breaks every day, we listened to other local Houstonian volunteers and project volunteers talk about the hurricane, their experience with it, and how they’ve been trying to cope with the damages as well as help others in the county. Our discussions made me realize that we often overlook the number of people’s lives lost and houses ruined, and that we often only see them as just numbers and statistics. However, it’s much more than that. Houses flooded to the ceiling, schools flooded so much that they had to be torn down, and sentimental objects that had to be throw away due to the mold that grew on them just hours after its initial contact with the flood water. What’s worse is how some people treated the homeowners. Despite the fact that these homeowners received money from the government to repair and recover from the hurricane, many contractors would take the money and flee away from the project, leaving the homeowners without money and without a plan to recover their houses.
A category 4 storm, Hurricane Harvey took the lives of almost a hundred people, left thousands more injured, and tens of thousands of homes, schools, community centers flooded and damaged.
Not only was the county’s infrastructure jeopardized, but so were the mental lives of every family. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night, scared, to the sound of soft raindrops because they reminded you of the four-day-long storm that ruined your home you loved dearly. Imagine explaining to your little elementary children why they cannot go to school for the time being because their school no longer exists. Imagine trying to reach out to contractors who eventually flee with the money the government granted you to repair your house.
Working alongside other volunteers of YVC, RTW, and SBP made me feel powerful as a helping hand in the Houston community, and devoting a few days to the recovering effort taught me so much more than any other experience I’ve ever had.
Houston has also made me realize that there are so many issues we don’t necessarily see and read about. However, they are still there, no matter where you are in the world. Despite the fact that I am not in Houston anymore, there are still so many ways I can get involved in the hurricane relief effort. Even just spreading awareness, donating, and sharing stories will help. Now, I am sharing my story of how I helped, hoping that someday, you can, too.
This guest blog post was submitted by Winnie Zheng. Winnie is a high school student in Philadelphia, PA., who has been an active volunteer with YVC of Philadelphia for 3 years.
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